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A novel approach to estate planning

Guide Books Review: To your accountant, the target is to cut estate taxes. Your goal, though, can be to make your prosperity last for generations

A novel approach to estate planning

The Naked Opus: Growing Your Family Wealth for the Long Term
By Chris Delaney

This is a great read, tackling one of the most difficult topics every farm must face. How can a family build a future that lasts for generations instead of frittering away what it has worked so hard to achieve?

So let’s start with the book’s title: The Naked Opus.

Why naked? As every farmer knows, planning how to transfer their wealth from one generation to the next can be scary, embarrassing and fraught. The whole family can feel exposed. 

In fact, feeling vulnerable is like feeling naked, says author Chris Delaney. To be vulnerable means you have to face head-on the things that make you uncomfortable and the things you can’t hide.

But, says Delaney, those naked conversations are also an opportunity. Rather than simply finding a way to pass the financial wealth to the heirs, the incoming generation can foster a relationship that creates growth for future generations.

Delaney says that current intergenerational wealth planning is typically short-sighted rather than purposeful. Too often, the idea is to distribute assets and tax savings rather than to focus on long-term strategies that will ensure the continued growth of the family legacy into successive generations.

Traditional planning models create an entropy effect, Delaney says. It’s because “planners fail to take a genuinely holistic and interdisciplinary approach”. 

This leads to a real nugget: “When you invest your financial capital to enhance the social, intellectual and human capital … you in turn increase the chances of your financial wealth being sustainable over many generations.”

Photo: Milner and Associates (publisher).

Ideally, a team of complementary advisors should help their clients realize that objective.

However, the onus does not fall solely on the advisors. As the steward of your family’s wealth, Delaney says that you need to probe deep and ask lots of questions when you aren’t adequately satisfied with advisors’ responses.

“You must become an advocate for your own planning,” he says. “(Because) any plan that lacks strategic cohesion, authentic governance and an effective communication model is doomed to repeat the shirtsleeves-to-shirtsleeves experience.” (This is where wealth is created by one generation, stewarded by the next, and squandered by the third.) 

Delaney says it pays to demand your advisors give you more than strategically hollow responses and overly simplistic planning suggestions. By focusing on “continuity planning” rather than basic (but still necessary) estate planning (e.g. wills, life insurance), you will generate new wealth and abundance for future generations because you will be addressing several key issues, including the psychology of money between generations; building an “intergenerational family legacy rather than simply splitting the family wealth up among beneficiaries” and focusing on investing in positives as opposed to avoiding negatives.

“The combination of short-term thinking and loss aversion renders clients susceptible to overly simplistic planning suggestions,” Delaney says. “People confuse action with effective results … (so) a $10,000 tax saving feels better than the uncertain gain of building or reinforcing trust in a relationship.”

Those relationships, however, are what generate “continuous opportunity” from generation to generation and they are built by identifying individual and common family values, goals, vision and purpose. Most advisors don’t want to get down into the sticky emotional stuff, but it’s those very elements, says Delaney, that, once prioritized, simplify and fast track the decision-making process.

Delaney quotes Roy Disney saying, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” And Delaney adds, “Identifying core values establishes a logical launching point into the creation of the family mission statement. That then leads into action mode, a truly strategic process for wealth continuity planning.”

Delaney expertly conveys all this by transforming what could be a heavy, uncomfortable and labyrinthine topic and into an easy-to-read book where fictional advisor Rick Gilmour, an estate lawyer, discovers a more authentic, strategic and values-driven process to grow family wealth for the long-term.

Crafting your own “naked opus,” he promises, will “help you discover the purpose behind your planning, safeguard the fruits of your life’s work, and write your own powerful, authentic family story — a legacy that will last for generations to come.”

About the author


April M. Stewart is the owner of Alba PR, a brain-to-brain communication design firm, and the creator of “The Farmer’s Survival Guide: How to Connect With 21st Century Consumers,” a blog and workshops which look at communication impact boosters. She is also a sixth-generation Quebec dairy farmer, president of Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture, and a member of the Canadian Agri-Business Education Foundation board. You can find her on Twitter under @FarmersSurvival.



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