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Where traditional estate planning falls short

Estate plans often fail, regardless of whether a competent attorney was involved. That’s because an estate plan should be more than just a stack of expensive documents. For an estate plan to result in a truly successful transfer of wealth, you must address these three elements.

Leaving an inheritance to someone who is bad with money is a recipe for disaster. Instilling practical financial literacy will steer your heirs toward success throughout their lives, and especially when they inherit. But it's best to start when they're young.

Conflict arises when expectations differ from reality. When a loved one dies, the emotions surrounding their wealth are like a tinderbox. Misplaced assumptions can spark resentment that consumes the family forever. Communication is the solution.

Without the proper legal documents in place, no one will have the authority to carry out your wishes, regardless of how well you've communicated them. A qualified attorney will ensure that your estate is structured in a thoughtful and tax-efficient manner.

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What's going on here?


What is Heirstream?

We are at the beginning of the largest generational transfer of wealth in human history. Heirstream’s mission is to help families thoughtfully prepare for their own transfer of wealth to the next generation. Unfortunately, the “estate planning” industry tends to focus solely on legal document creation and investment strategies. These alone are insufficient to ensure a successful wealth transfer. Families must also prepare the next generation with a framework of financial literacy, and candidly discuss their wishes, values, and expectations. Heirstream will show them how.

Who are you?

My name is David E. Peterson, and I’m the creator of Heirstream. In my day job, I’m a trusts and estates attorney with a private law practice located north of Boston. Having been in the estate planning field for more than a decade, I’ve drafted hundreds of wills and trusts, and administered countless estates. During this time I’ve seen families torn apart fighting over inheritances, despite having competent legal documents in place. I’ve also seen families with no formal estate plan successfully navigate the challenge of passing wealth on to the next generation. My experience led me to the realization that successful estate planning requires a three-pronged approach. Of course you should have the proper documents in place. But you should also provide your heirs with the skill to handle their inheritance responsibly, and resolve any potential conflict through open communication before it’s too late.

Are you trying to sell me something?

Maybe someday, but not right now. Heirstream is a work in progress. Our mission is to serve families interested in passing their wealth on to future generations. Our approach is unique, and has the potential to make an enormous impact. But the topic of family wealth transfers is broad, and there is so much actionable advice to provide that it’s difficult to know where to start. Therefore, at this moment, Heirstream’s first priority is to listen… to you… to determine your most pressing concerns about leaving a legacy to your loved ones. It is your feedback that will allow us to tailor our expertise to your needs. As we continue to learn more about you, and others like you, we will create and offer relevant information that fulfills our mission of serving you, as your family navigates this historic generational wealth transfer.

What should I do next?

If you haven’t read the other FAQs right above this one, please do, or just watch the video at the top of the page. Then, if you’re still interested in what Heirstream has to offer, please click the button below to provide feedback so that we can best tailor our message, and to sign up to be notified of what’s coming next from Heirstream.

Preparing Heirs

Often times receiving an inheritance is the most significant financial event of a person’s lifetime. Money has tremendous power. It can enable great accomplishments, and can magnify destructive behavior. It changes how people act and how other’s view them. For these reasons, preparing heirs for their eventual inheritance is the single most important element of a successful wealth transition.

A properly prepared heir will be able to recover from most other estate planning blunders. Even if some portion of the inheritance is lost to taxes, fees, or other inefficiencies, a financially knowledgeable and responsible heir will obtain the maximum benefit from what remains. Conversely, an irresponsible or clueless heir will easily fall victim to investment scams, endless requests from covetous individuals, and even their own impulses and vices.

So, this begs the question: How do you prepare an heir for an inheritance?

The best advice is to start young. It’s better to build a solid foundation of financial responsibility than to change a lifetime of habits and routines. 

At a most basic level, parents should talk openly with their young children about the value of work and the cost of maintaining a household. Even if they’re to young to “do the math” children can grasp these concepts. As children get older, parents can introduce specific examples based upon their own household budgets and income streams. This training is valuable, even for families of relatively modest wealth… Especially for families of modest wealth.

At more advanced levels of wealth, heir preparation has added importance, as well as more varied challenges and opportunities. For example, business owning families have the burden of preparing their heirs for their roles in the family business. Wealthy families may also seek to groom their heirs to continue the family’s philanthropy.

It’s astounding that basic financial literacy isn’t taught in school. Instead, it’s up to parents to provide a financial education for their children… But many parents never had training in this field either. That’s where Heirstream comes in. As Heirstream evolves, we will highlight a variety of specific methods and strategies for preparing heirs. Of course, these specific strategies will depend on the age, maturity, and interest level of the individuals, as well as the financial resources and circumstances of the parents.

So, in order to best focus our efforts to serve you, please click the button below to tell us more about yourself. It’ll only take a few minutes, and it’s the first step in ensuring a lifetime of financial success for your family.

Family Communication

People are complicated. Families are complicated. Money is complicated. That’s why successful successful wealth transitions require more than just the legal formalities of your typical estate planning documents. These documents are important, but they are essentially just mechanisms for naming beneficiaries. So great… then what?

Modern families face more challenges than ever before in providing an inheritance to their loved ones. Second marriages and blended families are often blessings, but they can provide the emotional and logistical framework for intense conflict. Similarly, children from the same family often pursue different personal and career paths, and achieve vastly different levels of financial success. Most people want to treat their loved ones fairly, but how does one apply traditional notions of fairness in such complicated scenarios? Compound this with the surprise that an heir could feel if they have no understanding of the family’s wealth or the scope of their own inheritance.

While it may not be possible to achieve perfect equality, families that communicate openly and discuss their unique challenges have a far greater chance of maintaining the family harmony that so often falls apart after a loved one’s death. Without communicating your wishes, values, and expectations, you are simply dumping money on your heirs. That is a bad strategy, and it can cause even the best estate plans to fall apart.

But starting a conversation about your own death is not easy. And besides, polite people don’t discuss money anyways, right? Wrong. If you don’t discuss these topics while you’re still alive, then your heirs are going to discuss them after the fact, when emotions are at their peak. This often results in long hidden feelings of resentment and entitlement rising to the surface, and mixing with the confusion and frustration that could have been avoided by setting expectations earlier.

Instead of avoiding the sensitive topics of death and money, it’s far easier to face them head-on. In critical health situations, this can happen very quickly. But otherwise it’s often best to communicate bit by bit, over a long period of time, with each conversation serving as an opportunity to reaffirm your sincere love and concern for your family.

Still, rather than forcing a casual contemplation of your own demise at your next Thanksgiving dinner, it is best to be strategic in your communications. That’s where Heirstream comes in. As Heirstream evolves, we will highlight a variety of specific methods and strategies to help families communicate their wishes, expectations, and concerns, as part of an overall wealth transition strategy. Of course these specific methods will depend on the unique circumstances of each family.

So, in order to best focus our efforts to serve you, please click the button below to tell us more about yourself. It’ll only take a few minutes, and it’s the first step in ensuring future generations of family harmony.

Legal Planning

The legal aspects of wealth transfers are what most people think of when they hear the term Estate Planning. That’s why Heirstream places so much focus on the non-legal elements of a successful estate plan, which are preparing heirs and family communication. Nonetheless, proper legal planning is tremendously beneficial, and often essential to achieving a successful transfer of a family’s wealth from one generation to the next.

At their core, legal estate planning techniques must ensure that the proper people receive the property that you intend for them to receive. Well-prepared heirs and harmonious family dynamics are great, but your wealth transition will still fail if the wrong people receive the assets of your estate. Thoughtful and competent legal planning will make sure that this doesn’t happen.

In addition to ensuring the proper beneficiaries, legal planning often has the added benefits of reducing taxes and protecting assets from beneficiaries that cannot inherit directly. Families often want to leave an inheritance for someone facing a personal or legal hardship, such as divorce or substance abuse. But in these instances a direct inheritance could be lost, or could enable bad behavior, rather than provide financial security. Experienced estate planning attorneys can reduce taxes and protect assets through a framework of wills, trusts, beneficiaries designations, and forms of ownership.

It’s important to note that Heirstream is not intended as legal or tax advice. Yes, Heirstream’s creator is an estate planning attorney, but each state has their own laws, and every family situation is unique, so it’s impossible to give individual advice on this platform.

Nevertheless, as Heirstream evolves we will provide general information on basic legal estate planning concepts and specific techniques. That way when you’re ready to hire an estate planning attorney, you’ll be armed with the knowledge that you need to feel confident that you’re getting the best possible legal advice for your family.

So, in order to best focus our efforts to serve you, please click the button below to tell us more about yourself. It’ll only take a few minutes, and it’s the first step in gaining the knowledge that you need to legally protect your family.

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