Family Trusts
Family Trusts

Family Trusts

In the 1980s Joanie Bronfman, Richard Bakal, and I began a journey that continues to this day. We sought to try to make the relationships among the creator of a trust, its trustee, and its beneficiary comprehensible to all and humane. (Location 407)

In the late 1980s Peter White, Joanie Bronfman, Anne D'Andrea, and I convened what I believe was the first gathering exclusively of trust beneficiaries. We had found to our surprise in our professional practices that many beneficiaries felt their trusts were burdens, not blessings. We wondered why a trust, which seemed on its face to be such a benefit, seemed so often to turn out to be the opposite. (Location 413)

80 percent or so feel their trusts are a burden, 10 percent a blessing, and the remainder are unsure. These results have given me a purpose ever since to see if my colleagues and I could change these percentages. This book is the result. (Location 422)

Among professionals it is well-known that by the third generation of a family around 90 percent of its financial wealth will likely be held in trust. (Location 425)

Necessarily then these families' trust cultures and structures, their “trustscapes,” and their beneficiary/trustee relations often determine whether the entropy of the “shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves” proverb overtakes them. Those of us in the field refer to this reality in the families we serve as “the trust wave.” (Location 426)

The combination of these facts underscores how important it will be to a families' flourishing that its trusts be blessings. (Location 431)

Before proceeding, I would like to observe one other important demographic trend. The use of trusts continues to increase, not just for transfer tax planning but also for asset protection, reasons of probate, and, above all, control. (Location 434)

Within families with very significant or intergenerational wealth, beneficiaries may find themselves faced with trust distributions in their early 20s or younger. (Location 436)

My co-authors and I are each committed to the question of human flourishing, especially in families of affinity seeking to practice seven generation thinking, that is, thinking that considers carefully the consequences of present-day actions on the people who will live seven generations later. (Location 444)

These families preserve and grow their four qualitative capitals—spiritual, human, intellectual, and social—supported by their single quantitative capital, the financial. (Location 446)

Such families tend to practice hastening slowly as they know they have to make just a few more seriously good decisions than bad over the next 150 years to succeed. (Location 450)

They invest for the long term, with the intention that a later generation will harvest the hard won fruits of their labors. (Location 451)

First, we have come to understand that our focus must start with the beneficiary, rather than with the trust creator or the trustee. (Location 455)

This focus on the trust creator easily follows from the fact that most professionals have the trust creator—and not the beneficiaries—as their paying client. (Location 458)

In contrast, we came to see that beginning with the beneficiary and his or her responsibilities and goals might open new pathways to his or her flourishing. (Location 462)

We asked, “What did the donor or transferor inspirit the meteor with?” (Location 465)

We realized that a trust that has a deeply developed distributive function (and the distributive function is truly the key)—grounded in aiding the beneficiary's individuation, resilience, adaptability to meet life's ups and downs and capacity to bring his or her dreams to life—is the antidote against dependence, entitlement, cynicism, and addiction—addiction to alcohol or drugs as well as addiction to trust distributions. (Location 472)

With this awareness it became clear to us that all too often the trustee is more concerned with the trust as a structure than with the culture that the trust creates. (Location 488)

A culture that will succeed for the beneficiary begins with the trust creator's question: am I intending to make a gift of love and a gift that will enhance the beneficiaries' lives? Or am I seeking to make a transfer that solves my tax concerns, that keeps the beneficiaries' creditors from getting my money, and perhaps even creates a memorial to my dream, now embodied in an enterprise that I consider my true child and over which I seek through this trust to perpetuate my control? (Location 490)

Instead, the beneficiary must live in a structure of relationships conditioned by a founder's goals that essentially disparage or ignore the beneficiary. (Location 495)

is the trust (guided by the trustee) making dynamic distributions that promote the beneficiary's growth and individuation, or is it making sterile, annuity-type payments that breed beneficiary dependence? (Location 501)

Looking at the generic trustscape today from the vantage point of the beneficiary we realized that most trusts aren't set up to grow excellent beneficiaries. Their cultures do everything but. (Location 504)