I always smile when people ask me what I do. The main reason is, I love my work. A second reason is, the answer makes much more sense when told as a story.
The story began while I was a CPA in the Family Wealth Planning division of a Big 5 accounting firm. A client hired us after being given 3-6 months to live. He had a son, a daughter, and a wife, whom he wanted to leave his controlling interest (51%) of the family business. His son shared his vision for the company, but the daughter favored the ideas of the uncle, who owned 49%. If our client left his family members 1/3 each, the uncle – his brother – would get his way. Our client did not want that to happen. His ownership would end with his death, but he still wanted to get his way and “rule from the grave.”
From an estate planning perspective, this was an intriguing challenge. But it did not sit well with me. What type of man would choose this as a death-bed priority? What would his (adult) children think when they learned the lengths their father went to, to try maintain control even after he was dead? What type of relationship could this family possibly have, even in their last months together, when this was the priority of the father?
With a net worth measured in the billions, providing financially for his family was not a challenge. But what legacy was he leaving them? Business before family? Control before trust?
What about the professionals advising him? Even the best laid plans can be derailed by family quarrels. What if we did succeed in helping him accomplish his said aim? Could we consider a success something that put the emotional health of his family at risk? Surely there had to be a better way.
Unfortunately, I saw this dilemma play out more than once. Financial and estate planning, which was done in isolation of those whom it would ultimately affect. Planning based on outcomes, which were disconnected from the purpose.
From time to time, I looked for someone to whom I could refer planning clients. Someone with whom they could explore these issues and consider alternatives. At no point was I successful in identifying a referral. Eventually I could no longer tolerate the lack of options. There was a need, and I was determined to learn how to fill the gaps. More than a decade later, that dream became a reality with the launch of Eredita, which means legacy in Italian.
As a legacy consultant, I help families preserve lasting legacies by navigating the relational and emotional complexities of wealth. I help families have meaningful relationships, which are based on trust and an ability to work through conflict. I ask the tough questions, which prioritize purpose and consider personality factors, skill sets, and preparedness.
I love what I do. Now you know the story behind the smile.