Heritage Design consulting and facilitation, another separate fee-for service offering of our firm, is probably best viewed from the perspective of our personal financial planning (PFP) lead offering and core competency as being a very specialized, and at the same time very important aspect of the estate planning subset of traditional PFP. For context on this reference, please see the description of our PFP offering under Services.
Our Heritage Design work with our clients follows training and process from The Heritage Institute and is based on the research and findings of Institute founders Perry Cochell, and Rod Zeeb. Perry and Rod are both experienced estate planning attorneys and co-authored the seminal book “Beating the Midas Curse” in 2005. Rod Zeeb is CEO of the Institute.
Considerable research, including but not limited to that of Mssrs. Cochell and Zeeb, confirm the notion that it is exceedingly difficult, and thus unusual for family unity and family wealth to survive very many generations intact. As is the case with the physical world in nature, atrophy tends to set in surprisingly quickly and cause the weakening and disintegration of families and family fortunes. In fact, Cochell and Zeeb’s work confirms findings by other researchers, and from cultures around the world that only about 10% of family fortunes survive three generations. This sad reality is reflected consistently in various age-old sayings in many cultures around the world. The classic American way of stating this is “Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations.” The Italians say “From stableboy to stars to stableboy.” The Scottish say “The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs.”, and the Chinese proverb quite directly and absolutely laments that “Wealth never survives three generations.”
Well, the Chinese proverb is apparently a bit off the mark, because, as mentioned above, research into this long and well known generational wealth dissipation phenomenon reveals that in fact, about ten percent of families are able to successfully instill and pass along family stories, values, unity, and yes material wealth, and in some instances far beyond the proverbial three generations. Cochell and Zeeb studied the practices of families they identified as successful exceptions to the “Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves” phenomenon they dubbed, for hopefully obvious reasons, the “Midas Curse”, and founded The Heritage Institute principally for the purpose of changing the world in this regard. In fact, Rod Zeeb, a personal friend and important trainer and mentor of mine has dedicated his professional life to, as he has put it me more than once, “expanding that ten percent number”. Rod simply saw too many exasperating instances in his lawyering past wherein he did otherwise excellent traditional legal structure and tax based estate planning, and saw it effectively all fall apart in only one or two subsequent generations. He concluded that enough was enough and redirected his efforts to take that issue head on as a personal challenge.
The Heritage Design process essentially brings interested client families a coherent organized way to recognize and attempt to instill in their own families, the family unity and stewardship fostering practices employed by the ten percent that effectively dodged the Midas Curse “bullet”. Contrary to popular belief, when very successful families fall apart it is not typically primarily due to poor tradition estate or tax planning. Rather, it is more commonly due to unprepared heirs and the fatal discontinuity that creates.
Heritage Design process inherently entails professional consultative, facilitative, and collaborative support that we offer on a project-based fee-for-service basis.
If you are interested in learning more about joining with us and Rod Zeeb, and others involved with The Heritage Institute, in our efforts to change the sad statistics we’ve referenced here, one family at a time, and beginning with your family, please contact us to have a conversation about what can be one of the most important steps you’ve ever taken for your family, for the here and now, and for the very long term for members of your family you’ve not yet met.