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How Much Is Too Much?

A common struggle for wealth owners is determining how much to leave to heirs and how to communicate their wealth transfer plans. This dilemma is understandable given the constant headlines regarding the destructive behaviors of wealthy children, reality TV shows such as “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” that depict the frivolous lives of wealthy heirs, and the overriding concern that wealth will negatively impact the next generation. However, many wealth creators believe in the importance of “keeping it in the family” and have successfully enabled wealth transfer. 

Certain well-known individuals have publicly communicated their wealth transfer plans. For example, Bernard Marcus, founder of Home Depot, believes that inheritance is a “terrible burden” and says he plans to leave his estate to the family’s charitable foundation. He says he that if his children want to be rich, they need to work for it. 

Likewise, Bill Gates established a foundation over 20 years ago and transferred most of his wealth to enable important societal impact. Warren Buffet openly discusses his plans to give his wealth to philanthropy, but leave enough for his children; he regularly encourages other individuals to give half of their wealth to charity.

Other individuals have pursued “keep it in the family” wealth transfer plans. Curtis Carlson of Carlson Travel, Radisson Hotels and TGI Fridays transferred his massive estate to his two daughters, who were involved in many aspects of the family business from their early years and knowledgeable in the wealth enterprise components. Today, the third generation remains involved in the business.

Ted Turner’s father felt that his son was not capable of carrying on the family business, even though he worked there from an early age. Turner assumed full management responsibility at age 24 after his father’s death and successfully built the company into a multibillion-dollar business. He also became a highly successful pioneer in American television and is now America’s largest private landowner. He owns the Atlanta Braves baseball team and has enabled considerable philanthropic contributions.  

Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, did considerable estate planning. His son, Rob, served as chairman of the board for nearly 25 years, navigating the challenges of a $500 billion annual revenue public company. Recently, another family member assumed this role after 15 years of service with
Wal-Mart.

The decision of how much to leave to heirs is a highly subjective one. There is no formula. Proper upbringing and involved parenting are identified as important safeguards against potential problems. The philosophy is “child rearing before estate planning.” Work experience is also important in learning the values, decision-making process and operational aspects of running a family wealth enterprise. 

Communication is key! It’s important to shed light on family finances and let heirs know what they’re getting (and what they’re not getting), where the wealth came from and what it takes to maintain it. The learning process takes time, ideally over a lifetime of togetherness as a family. ?

Julie Neitzel is a partner and advisor with WE Family Offices in Miami and a board member of the Miami Finance Forum. Contact her at Julie.Neitzel@wefamilyoffices.com or 305.825.2225. 

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.