“Enough to do something…

… but not enough to do nothing.” That’s the concept expressed by Richard A. Lehrman, a Miami Beach attorney, in a Saturday New York Times article, “Bequeathing, With Strings Attached” by Hillary Chura. Mr. Lehrman is describing the idea that inherited wealth be used to allow the recipient to enhance his or her life but not to lapse into unhealthy sloth. The article cites a statistic provided by the Spectrem Group, a consulting firm specializing in the affluent and retirement markets, that nine million U.S. households are worth $1 million or more, excluding their primary residences.

As the title of the article suggests, many of these families are leaving significant wealth to their heirs, with an eye to influencing how an inheritance is used (or not used.) Family decisions about wealth are a prime area for conflict, stirring up all sorts of issues involving family relationships.

If only a small percentage of those nine million families anticipate or experience some conflict in the planning, announcing, and understanding phases of inheritance decisions, that’s a lot of disputes. Some will be hidden and consciously ignored, some will explode after a loved one’s death, and some will result in a slow, seething burn.

The negative impact of many of these disputes can be minimized with the help of a mediator: someone with no dog in the fight, no ax to grind — pick your favorite metaphor. The point is that taking a proactive approach to resolving the conflict with the help of a trained, neutral mediator can preserve both family relationships and family wealth.

Posted in Family Wealth Mediation, Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

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