Smart entrepreneurs look beyond the financials to enhance the impact of an impending business sale

Any business owner is familiar with looking at all sides of a particular transaction. It’s no different with the ultimate transaction—the sale of the business itself. It is vital to consider not only the financial and tax consequences of a sale, but also the impact on one’s family situation, next generation planning, other business holdings and charitable giving pursuits. When all is said and done, you’ll want to know you maximized opportunities, minimized regrets and positioned yourself for a rewarding next chapter. This doesn’t happen without thoughtful and timely planning.

Whittier Trust Vice President and Certified Exit Planning Advisor Elizabeth Anderson helps clients successfully navigate selling their businesses. Achieving the highest valuation multiple is always a top priority, but the team takes a holistic approach that prioritizes investments, family relationships, and tax, estate, and philanthropic planning. “We spend time getting to know our clients’ needs and goals so that we can help avoid any obstacles and optimize their results,” she says. “Often, by thinking ahead, we’re able to achieve even better outcomes than they hoped.” 

One way the Whittier Trust team helps business owners navigate a potential sale is by doing a deep-dive to understand the impact the sale of the business may have on the owner’s business goals and the owner’s personal life. In addition to fact-finding about the business itself and how it’s structured, the team will work to understand the motivations behind why you built the business, why you’re prepared to sell and how to best achieve your goals for the future. Here are some questions to help get you started: 

  • What prompted you to start the business in the first place? 
  • Why are you thinking about leaving the business?
  • Do you have a timeline in mind for your exit? 
  • What’s your vision of the ideal transition?
  • What personal or business objectives would you like to see accomplished in the transition?
  • How do you expect exiting the company to impact your life? 
  • Do you want to stay involved in the business after the sale? 
  • Do you expect any family members to remain active in the business? 
  • Are you concerned about any family issues? 
  • How do you expect your key employees to be impacted? 
  • Are you concerned about any employee issues? 
  • Do you anticipate any partner or shareholder issues? 
  • How important is preserving the legacy of the business? 
  • Have you identified a successor(s)? 
  • Have you taken steps to formalize a transfer arrangement?
  • What are you most concerned about relative to the transition?
  • Have you had the business appraised in the last 12 months? 
  • Have you worked with anyone to evaluate the health of the business?
  • How will exiting the business impact your personal financial situation? 
  • Does anyone else depend on the business for income or financial support?
  • Do you currently have a wealth management consultant? 
  • Do you have an estate plan? 
  • Do you have a plan for optimizing tax efficiency and savings related to the transaction? 
  • Have you estimated your cash flow needs after the transaction
  • To what extent do you expect to rely on proceeds of the sale to meet your post-transaction cash flow needs?
  • What are your post-sale goals? 
  • Are there any family dynamics that might be a cause for concern when the sale happens? 

This list of questions isn’t exhaustive, but it’s designed to help you uncover risks and planning opportunities that are best addressed months, or even years, before the sale. Understanding your priorities is a great first step toward opening a broader and more lasting potential for your wealth, family, and legacy. 

Keep in mind that to increase your chances for a big win, it is essential that you coordinate with your professionals to tailor the results to your needs. Whittier Trust has experience working with legal and accounting teams to ensure that the specifics of your deal will focus on the outcomes you seek from a holistic perspective. “No two businesses are alike, just like no two families are the same,” Anderson says. “We take pride in being the partner business owners can count on to pave the way for the result they want.”

Thinking of selling your business? Things to consider before a sale

Your business is important to you. That’s why, when you plan for its future, there’s more to consider than optimizing the balance sheet and achieving a high valuation multiple. “Of course, we’re focused on helping our clients get the most value from the sale of a business, but we’re also committed to keeping them positioned. What I mean by ‘positioned’ is producing positive investment, family, tax and philanthropic results,” says Whittier Trust Vice President and Certified Exit Planning Advisor Elizabeth Anderson. “Clients who have the most successful sales start thinking about the process early and focus on the personal results they want to achieve as well as the financial payout.” 

Helping families navigate the various facets of business decisions is in Whittier Trust’s DNA. The company began in 1935 as a family office for the Whittier family, the patriarch of which was an entrepreneur who earned significant wealth that continues to support his descendants into the sixth generation. In 1979, the office managed a partial liquidation of business holdings that yielded $500 million to the family, helping pre-plan for the sale and successfully navigating the transaction. The company, formed as Whittier Trust in 1989, now serves more than 500 families with the same customized service model.  

If you’re thinking of selling your business, here are some top considerations from Whittier Trust. 

Find the right partner.

You should be careful about who you trust to assist with personal planning around the sale of your business. Look for someone who has years of experience in the entire business sale process, including post-sale positioning to address the unique needs of the owner’s family, trust, foundation and other enterprises.  

“Many of our clients are multi-generational families, like the Whittiers, who made their fortunes in a family business,” Anderson explains. “We take pride in helping business owners navigate the complexity of planning for a tax-efficient exit, preparing their families for the wealth they are about to receive and avoiding common pitfalls encountered when owners transition from a business without adequately including their personal finances, estate plans, philanthropic objectives or life goals in the exit calculation.” That proven track record is invaluable. 

Think about the why and the how.

When Whittier Trust is tasked with helping a client with selling a business, the earliest conversations focus on understanding their goals for their wealth, family, legacy and your history as a business owner. You’ll be asked things like: 

  • What’s most important to you right now? 
  • What milestones are most crucial that you accomplish? 
  • Do you have any concerns about transitioning out of the business? 
  • What goals do you have for your wealth? 
  • Have you considered how a business sale/exit might affect your financial situation? 
  • Have you done any personal tax planning to prepare for the sale? 
  • What family dynamics could affect a successful outcome? 
  • Is your estate plan up to date?
  • Are there problems you are trying to solve by a sale?

“Our partnership works to fulfill your family’s vision, values and goals as we sustain and grow your wealth,” Anderson says. “Once we understand your vision for the exit and how you want your family to carry forward after the transaction, we’ll help you develop a plan and assist with executing it.”

The real work begins.

Once your Whittier Trust advisor understands your needs and goals, that person builds an internal team to make it happen. That group of dedicated professionals will work on a consolidated personal balance sheet and begin to focus on the post-transaction personal financial objectives for the client and their family. 

In doing that due diligence, Whittier Trust evaluates every possible outcome to consider whether or not the net-net return from the transaction aligns with the owner’s post-transaction goals. If it doesn't for any reason, the team will adjust the plan as necessary. 

“We focus on minimizing risk, implementing tax-saving strategies and preparing the business owner and their family for life after the sale,” Anderson says. “We believe each client is unique and requires a tailored solution. This flexible approach empowers us to help you achieve your most important objectives.”

Transitioning to the after-sale reality.

Part of Whittier Trust’s ‘magic’ is in helping clients keep wealth from becoming a stumbling block. Instead, we help to increase clear communication within our families to maximize their understanding of how the different tools being deployed (such as investment, tax, trust and charitable vehicles) help foster family continuity from one generation to the next,” Anderson explains. 

Depending on a client’s needs, that could mean helping prepare heirs to be good stewards of the family legacy through philanthropy, entrepreneurial investment opportunities or creating a family office to handle the day-to-day demands of wealth management. No two families are alike, so no two transition plans will be identical, but the common thread is that Whittier Trust will be there every step of the way. 

Don't let potential discomfort stop you from discussing your wishes

Many people are afraid to talk about what happens when they die. Some think it’s bad luck, and others prefer to put off the discussion because it can be uncomfortable. Still others think sharing this information is personal and not something to discuss with family in the present, but rather something the family can “deal with” after they’ve passed. Some of the biggest in-fighting in the world’s most prominent families can be attributed to assumptions made regarding estate plans and trusts or simple bad communication. 

A well-laid-out and well-communicated plan can help assuage any future issues and keep a family’s legacy on the right track. Here are three tips for safeguarding your estate plan to ensure that your wishes for family harmony and legacy continuation are followed. 

Pay Attention to the Living Directives in Your Estate Plan 

A comprehensive estate plan is designed to cover you in life and in death, explains Whittier Trust Vice President Heidi I. Bitterman, J.D. Documents such as financial and medical powers of attorney are important components of an estate plan. “These documents are only valid during your life and are designed to protect you in instances where you are still alive but unable to make financial or medical decisions,” she says, noting that there are many nuances in these documents that need to be part of the bigger picture. “People often overlook what happens when you are still alive.” 

As your wealth and plan get more sophisticated, it’s important to not neglect these living directives. You’ll want your financial power of attorney to work with your beneficiaries and any trustees, for example, to ensure all your assets are properly titled and that any gifting you may be doing as part of a wealth transfer plan is not interrupted. “Medical decisions matter too,” Bitterman says, to ensure your desired level of care and/or end-of-life decisions are properly expressed and carried out if you become incapacitated. 

Share Your Wishes with the People You are Nominating 

The impact a surprise can have is amplified when applied to estate planning. The people who are nominated to positions of power, whether during your life or after, need to know the decisions they’re expected to make. In some cases, the gravity or complexity of the situation might not be something they’re willing to handle. 

For example, someone might not feel emotionally equipped to carry out a medical directive they don’t necessarily agree with, such as a child fulfilling a do-not-resuscitate order for a parent. “Some might have difficulty living with those decisions, even if it’s something they know you want,” Bitterman says. Another example is appointing a family member to handle an estate that holds complicated or closely held family assets. “Administration of an estate is fraught with difficulty and liability for those unfamiliar with it. Not everyone will want to undertake the responsibility but might feel guilty saying no because they were nominated,” she says. 

Planning documents are important, but it’s equally important to communicate them to anyone who will be involved in them and to share the reasoning behind your choices. “Your wishes are outlined in a general way in your estate planning documents, but they don’t tell the whole story. There could be nuances around why you feel you needed to structure your plan the way you created it,” she says. 

For those who don’t feel comfortable having face-to-face conversations, Bitterman recommends writing out your intentions in full detail, including your reasoning and any context that may prove helpful.

The one thing not to do? Stay quiet. “Silence is usually filled with what people want to believe or what they think is best from their own perspective,” Bitterman says. “There’s a lot of litigation around personal property and estates because of what people thought was going to happen, not the reality, and what they convinced themselves their departed loved one would have wanted to happen.” 

While Whittier Trust brings expertise in these delicate situations to the table, trust appointees aren’t necessarily who your loved ones want to be hearing from, especially if there’s a personal story attached. “It’s not the same as hearing it from your relative directly,” she says. 

Use a Wealth Management Firm or Trust Management Company to Execute

While it’s always best for families to hear from their loved ones personally, there are advantages to using a wealth management or trust management company such as Whittier Trust. “We work with families long-term,” says Bitterman. “We know our clients very well and have a deep relationship with them.” Once your family knows who is responsible for what and why it’s best to engage the services of a professional because the execution needs to be handled delicately by a team who can see the full picture. “There are fiduciary duties, which can be hard to do if there’s an emotional component,” she says. “Additionally, the more complex your asset makeup, the more potential pitfalls there are and the more difficult the execution will likely be.” 

While individuals have every right not to disclose all of their wishes while they’re alive, Bitterman stresses the importance of including those individuals or entities that are nominated to serve in your estate planning documents as soon as possible. “Good communication ensures a seamless transition to the next generation. The nominated parties need to feel ready for their responsibilities,” she says. 

Bitterman cites a current example: Her team is working with a client who owns a business and wants the business to continue to thrive after his death in order to take care of his employees. “When asked about how his children were involved with the business currently, it was revealed that all but one participated in running the business, and none of them seemed to have expressed an interest in participating in it after the owner dies one day,” she says. “To the owner, the value of the business was less monetary, but more of moral importance.” Bitterman’s team recommended the family talk honestly about whether the next generation would be able to honor the wishes of the owner in keeping the company running in the future.  

Bitterman hates to see a family struggle because estate plans were not communicated properly. “It can take an otherwise functional family and change the dynamics,” she says. “When it comes to estate planning, communication is key,” she says, because clarity can help pave the way to peace of mind for all concerned.   

Establishing a family office is a holistic family wealth management solution

Traditional models of wealth management focus solely on the portfolio. This model is flawed, however, as it doesn’t take into account the entire family picture. Seventy percent of family wealth doesn’t transition to the next generation due to a lack of both preparing the wealth for the family and preparing the family for the wealth. 

“Families often don’t have an orderly way to pass on their wealth, but the odds of failure are too large to ignore,” says Lauren Peterson, Senior Vice President, Client Advisor at Whittier Trust in Family Office services. “It is important to ready heirs for the transition to be good stewards of the wealth that is to come.”

Here, Peterson explains the integrated approach that creates sustainable best practices for successful families.

Establish a Family Office or Engage a Multi-Family Office

Establishing a family office is a holistic approach to wealth management and legacy that guides, supports and educates heirs for a more successful wealth-transfer rate. “A professional family office will engage with a family to support investments, values and the next generation,” says Peterson. 

While the older generation can certainly create a single-family office themselves, there is a lot of heavy lifting to do, which might not be appealing at this point in their lives. “Our clients often turn to Whittier Trust for our expertise. We are a multi family office with expert professionals working with similar families who have complex needs who need guidance to meet their goals,” says Peterson, who notes that unlike other firms that might have 100 families per advisor, Whittier has a Client Advisor and support team with unlimited availability for families or less. A team might consist of a Senior Advisor, Junior Advisor, Analyst, Senior Portfolio Advisor and other team members in real estate, philanthropy and more as needed.

Another unique aspect of Whittier’s family office services is that while a Senior Advisor may work with the parents, a Junior Advisor is assigned to younger family members so that everyone can feel comfortable working with someone closer to their age to get support, training and guidance. 

Create a Holistic Governance Structure

Once team members have been selected based on the family’s needs, the family office team then does a deep dive to look at all aspects, from financial documents to family dynamics. “We revise any governance structures, work with their CPA and legal team, look at all their documents and discuss it with the family so that they know what their documents say and mean,” Peterson says. 

Many of the clients Whittier works with have been CEOs or business owners and are used to creating a strategic plan. The goal of the family office is to help clients put together a structure and family strategic plan that lasts multiple generations. “We help them look at their family as a family business including all aspects, such as the legal structures, financial statements, operating companies, and if necessary, different entities. We often review the different agreements for profits split amongst family members,” says Peterson. “We do this to ensure quality communication and transparency among all stakeholders, as this build family continuity.” 

She adds that this process typically involves creating a family constitution that includes the family’s values, who makes the decisions and goals for how the family will interact together now and well into the future. Peterson and her team work to give every family member a voice and family unity, which may include coordinating a family retreat and/or training about the purpose of a family office.

Promote Family Harmony

One of the most important ways to promote family harmony is communication and for everyone to know their roles and responsibilities. “We like to involve the entire family—both bloodline and spouses. The family will tell us how much they want their kids or family members to know, but we make a concerted effort to make unifying decisions,” says Peterson. She notes that this often includes the parents accepting the input of their heirs without giving up their mission and values, as well as spouses being able to weigh in on what they want for their children.

Another popular way families choose to promote harmony is by focusing on philanthropy. “Establishing philanthropic giving goals through a family charitable trust, foundation or donor advised fund can be a way of facilitating good family dynamics and to work together to create a long-term family mission,” Peterson says.

Prioritize Education for Long-term Sustainability

Many heirs have had no direct experience with family finances or in making decisions about their family’s wealth. Therefore, the Whittier team does a lot of work to help prepare children to become good stewards of their family’s wealth. This can go as far as providing a deep dive talent assessment and looking at hard and soft skills to determine the roles that will be a good fit for each individual, in addition to educating them about those roles.

“Education and communication are the two solutions to prepare the next generation,” Peterson says. By establishing a family office and following these best practices, a family can transition wealth successfully and prepare heirs for wealth and maintaining the family legacy. 

“When families come to us, they stay for generations. We’re a long-term relationship company,” Peterson says.

What an executive director needs for success behind-the-scenes

Oftentimes families appoint a family member to be the executive director of their foundation. This is perfectly legal and makes sense, as that person can be the voice of the family, promote the mission of the foundation within the community and surface appropriate grantmaking opportunities as part of their job. However, there are several administrative duties that must be performed, some complex, which the family might not know about or in which the executive director might not be well-versed. Additionally, as a foundation grows, there are other considerations.

One example is the story of the English family who came to Whittier Trust after its matriarch had passed away. She had been running the family’s foundation and decided to appoint her granddaughter to the executive director position before her passing. The granddaughter, along with the other family board members, were managing a relatively small foundation of around $3 million. However, upon the grandmother’s death, the majority of her estate was left to the foundation. The foundation now had a much larger annual payout requirement to meet and the family was feeling a bit overwhelmed. They wanted to make sure they were in compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements and wanted to take a more sophisticated approach to the foundation’s investments.

Whittier Trust helped the English family to establish an investment policy statement, diversify their portfolio and align their investments with their values. They also took over several key back-office tasks to set the executive director up for success so that she could continue doing what she does best: representing the foundation in the community and focusing on its philanthropic strategy.

Bookkeeping and Accounting

Keeping the books in order can be a large undertaking. “Whittier Trust takes this off the executive director’s shoulders by preparing quarterly and annual financial statements for the foundation, issuing checks and maintaining the files needed for tax preparation and audit purposes,” says Haley Kirk, CAP, vice president and client advisor for Whittier Trust’s Philanthropic Services.

Preparing Grant Agreements

When an executive director or one of their family members comes across a nonprofit they’d like to support, Whittier Trust can handle the administrative work to review the organization. It was vital for the English family’s executive director to be involved in the community and to support her family’s mission. Instead of being bogged down by back-office work, such as preparing grant agreements, her time is primarily spent meeting with nonprofits learning about what they want to do and their goals. “For example, she’ll send me an email that says she wants to grant $30,000 over 3 years, and ‘Haley, please compile the needed details and grant file to complete the donation,’” says Kirk. “And we get it done.”

From there, Kirk’s team interfaces with the nonprofit to collect the EIN, run a charity check to make sure it can qualify for the grant, get their contact information and create the grant agreement, which may include a grant report requirement. As the date of the report nears, they make a phone call to remind the charity about the report’s deadline. When the next grant is due to the nonprofit, they reach out to the executive director to keep her up to date, as well as send the check. What’s more, Whittier can facilitate multi-year grants and schedule and monitor any subsequent grant reports that the family would like to see.

Tax Preparation

In addition to handling bookkeeping and accounting, Whittier interfaces with the foundation’s CPA to provide any documents needed for tax preparation. 

If a California-based private foundation or charitable trust earns or receives over $2 million annually, it is required to have an audit the following year. “It can be hard to track that number so we keep an eye on the $2 million threshold for our clients,” says Kirk. “If the foundation requires an audit, Whittier then works with the auditors.”

In the case of the English family’s grandmother’s estate, part of the money came in shortly after her passing, then a larger sum arrived. “They might not have realized that they were going over the audit threshold but we could see that on our end. Because the books were clean and up to date, everything was on track for the audit and the executive director and family Board members did not have to worry,” Kirk explains.

Board Meeting Facilitation

Corporate foundations are required by law to have one board meeting every year. “The team at Whittier Trust can stay on top of this so that it doesn’t become a cumbersome process,” Kirk says. This includes all of the logistical planning, such as scheduling the event with multiple parties; preparing the materials, such as proposals, financials and reports for review at the meeting; and taking meeting minutes so the executive director can focus on leading the meeting.

Central Office Funnel

All mail can run through Whittier Trust, which can serve as the central office for a foundation. Using Whittier’s address rather than the family’s reduces the burden on the executive director to triage all that mail. “We can screen out requests that aren’t a fit with the foundation’s mission or guidelines and politely decline them on behalf of the family,” Kirk says.

Initially, the English family was concerned that by giving Whittier the reins to take over the foundation’s administration they would lose some control and not be able to do what they wanted. It ended up being the opposite. Without the burden of administrative tasks, the executive director can now spend more time as the public face of the foundation, which means attending more events and meeting with nonprofits.  Partnering with Whittier Trust has allowed her to thrive and alleviates the worry of liability due to a misstep along the way.

The importance of developing financial literacy and generosity in the next generation

Every family is unique, but virtually all parents hope their children will grow up to be confident, self-sustaining and happy. In short, we hope they’ll be good people and contributing members of society. Families of significant means face unique challenges in this arena, however, because the same wealth that affords them educational, vocational and recreational opportunities has the potential to undermine achievement in their children. 

“Ensuring that a family’s wealth has a positive, rather than negative, impact on kids requires intentionality and thoughtful communication,” says Pegine Grayson, Director of Philanthropic Services at Whittier Trust. “In our 85+ years of working closely with high net worth families, we’ve seen that the key here is to focus on fostering children’s resilience, financial fitness and philanthropic activities and values.” Here are some things to consider. 


Parents’ natural tendency is to want to protect their kids from pain, but too much coddling deprives them of the opportunity to discover their own courage as well as limits. “My mom used to tell me, ‘I can protect you from many things, but one thing I won’t do is save you from the logical consequences of your own actions,’” says Grayson. “I learned important lessons from that philosophy, and also from watching my parents conduct themselves in the community as I grew up.” 

The Whittier Trust Philanthropy Services team encourages clients to model patience and tenacity for their children and to openly share stories about their own failures and how they bounced back from them. Emphasize that the goal is not to avoid mistakes; we’re human and erring is inevitable. Rather, the goal is to own our mistakes, apologize when necessary and take steps to avoid the same ones in the future. Children who learn to treat mistakes and failures as opportunities for improvement will use those skills for the rest of their lives. They’ll learn how to take calculated risks with the confidence that, if they fail, they have the skills and competence to try something new, without expecting others to bail them out. 

Financial Fitness

Members of the Silent and Baby Boomer generations were often taught that talking about money is unseemly, and that orientation can be magnified when it comes to raising their children and grandchildren. Many clients tell us they don’t want to burden their kids with information they may not be ready to understand. 

However, by the time kids are in middle school, they’re usually aware that their family is wealthy. What they lack is the wisdom and perspective to make sense of it. “We encourage clients to begin discussing financial matters in age-appropriate ways once children are old enough to notice disparities between their situation and that of other families,” says Grayson. “This doesn’t mean you should share a detailed balance sheet or even include any numbers. But it’s important to talk about where the family wealth came from, how the family uses it wisely to add value to their lives and how financial decisions about saving, spending and sharing are made.” 

Come up with a strategy to give children age-appropriate ways to practice financial literacy. For example, rather than giving allowances to reward good behavior or as payment for household chores (which should be done just because it’s what family members do), instead use those funds as a tool to teach budgeting skills. 

An Ethos for Giving Back

Help kids make sense of the family’s wealth and become good stewards of what they stand to inherit by being overt about how the family aligns its wealth and values. Talking about what matters most to you and the positive changes you want to see in the world, encouraging your kids to do the same, and then deploying some of the family wealth to promote those changes through charitable giving is incredibly empowering for kids. 

“Many of our clients hope we will help them ‘save their kids from their wealth’,” Grayson notes. “Invariably, we recommend establishing a foundation or donor-advised fund to get kids actively involved in the family’s philanthropic endeavors.”  By participating in the family’s philanthropy, kids develop a spirit of generosity and feel proud of their family’s legacy.  They also learn important life skills such as investment strategies, budgeting, research, humility, respectful listening and communication, and experience the joy that comes from making a positive impact on someone else’s life.” This strategy also helps keep the family united in a common purpose, even as kids grow up and move away.

“Wealthy parents often focus primarily on passing on their assets to their children, which of course is important,” Grayson observes. “In our experience, though, the most successful intergenerational families pay just as much attention to passing on the values and skills that will equip their children to be good stewards of those assets and thriving adults in their own right.” 

By Whittier Trust 

Who doesn’t love baseball, aptly called “The Great American Pastime”? The best games take the fans, players and coaches on a nine-inning journey with highs and lows, demonstrations of strength and strategy, and ultimately, a celebration of the winning team’s victory. 

Whittier Trust Company Assistant Vice President and Client Advisor Austin Barr— a recently converted Angels fan since moving to Newport Beach—sees the game as an apt analogy for the service Whittier Trust provides. “Our founder, Max Whittier, made his own luck when he made the cross-country trip from Maine to California—and we seek to perpetuate that winning streak with our preparation and expertise,” he says. Here’s how. 

Team Effort

The best teams have a well-rounded collection of players who are skilled and specialized for the best team outcome. “The baseball analogy rings true: we play a lot of positions and must be ready for every hit,” Barr says. That can include everything from strategic services such as estate planning to maximize intergenerational wealth and looking for new advantageous alternative investment vehicles to tactical services such as ensuring business continuity or mitigating potential tension between beneficiaries. 

Because Whittier Trust has five distinct but connected divisions—Investments, Trust Services, Family Office, Philanthropy and Real Estate & Energy—their bench is deep and diverse, which provides a holistic and methodical approach to a client’s financial landscape and life overall. For example, some clients come to Whittier for investments and then discover that working with the philanthropic services division can decrease their tax burden to increase their portfolio’s overall value. “It's really white glove service to the extreme,” Barr says. 

Personalized Playbook

As any coach knows, every team and opponent is different, so the best coaches develop a playbook that’s tailored for the season and flexible enough to win the game at hand. Similarly, when Whittier Trust begins working with a new client or family, they spend ample time getting to know the client, asking questions about lifestyle, goals, interests, concerns and much more. As a result, the day-to-day “playbook” may look slightly different for each client and it may change over time, as the client’s needs and goals change—or as life throws curve balls. Whittier Trust takes a nuanced approach and is able to be agile and thoughtful to give the client the best outcome and provide the most comfort along the way. 

Barr notes, “We are actively looking for opportunities to optimize by revisiting goals and priorities regularly.” That could mean proposing an advantageous investment to minimize tax burden, celebrating a new addition to a family by setting up a college investment account or connecting with the philanthropic services team to pursue a client’s charitable passions. No request is too big or too small. 

Prepared for Curveballs

Anyone who has lived through the last few years knows a thing or two about curveballs—thanks to a global pandemic, supply chain delays, a war in Ukraine and the “Great Resignation” that precipitated challenges in staffing. However, a well-rounded team is agile enough to expect that curveballs (or fastballs or changeups for that matter) are going to come, so that none of those events trigger knee-jerk reactions or panic-driven decisions. Instead, Whittier Trust takes a measured, thoughtful approach to whatever the market or the world throws at them. “It’s not a reactive type of thinking. Instead, we thrive in complexity,” says Barr. “Whether it’s the sale of a business and the pre-sale and post-sale planning or looking for opportunities to both preserve and grow wealth, we find a plan and strategy to do what’s right for our clients and their goals.” 

For the Win

No matter what a client’s specific needs are, the Whittier Trust team’s goal is the same: to create a winning strategy. The low client-to-advisor ratio allows them to create and execute a highly customized plan, to be constantly available for questions and to proactively reach out as new opportunities arise. “Our winning strategy is made up of excellent service and ensuring that wealth is preserved over the long term,” Barr says. “We exist to grow and preserve the wealth of our clients, so that their legacy lives on.”

By Whittier Trust

Philanthropy is about helping others, offering invaluable funding to support communities and causes. When family foundations are involved, it gets more complex than simply giving money away. It’s also about preserving a legacy and bringing family members together in the name of a shared cause or purpose. The style and look of a family foundation has evolved, and it’s important to consider how to engage the next generation.

Junior boards—also called associate boards—can be a powerful philanthropy services tool in helping prime the next generation, and they can be highly personalized in structure, style and purpose. They can be as small as four members, or as large as 20, and the age limitations can be anywhere from pre-teen to mid-30s. These launch pads are instrumental in not only growing the foundation’s reach but also growing the junior board members as individuals.

“Junior boards help teach the next generation about the foundation and its mission, how it’s structured and more. It’s a good way to strengthen members’ financial literacy skills. It helps them learn about the value of money, investing the foundation’s assets, learning about the stock market and the power of leaving your money invested so it grows over time,” says Alexandra C. Repko, officer and client advisor for Whittier Trust’s Philanthropic Services. Junior boards can also help strengthen familial ties, prepare members to transition to the main board and help members discover more about themselves. Here’s how.

Strengthening Family Bonds

Junior boards can help strengthen a family’s bond, especially if there are many branches or if the members aren’t particularly physically or emotionally close. “It’s a good way for cousins or more distant relatives to be able to collaborate and decide how and where the money should go,” says Repko, who adds that working together is helpful in making junior board members feel less alone in their giving.

Even close-knit junior boards can deepen their relationship. She recalls one example of a small but well-run junior board that had been working together for many years. Whittier Trust facilitated a connection presentation for them to share during a family retreat, where each member worked with the firm to share more about their choice of organization to support.

“We created a presentation for them to give to each other on the junior board and the greater family. It was during the pandemic so it was over Zoom, but it worked really well. They were able to share with each other, to present their interests and why they chose to give to particular organizations,” she says, noting that the environment made it conducive for creating deeper connections.

“Sometimes, even though you’re family, you don’t always take the time to listen and hear about each other’s interests,” she says. “It strengthened family ties in a natural, organic way.”

Facilitating Family Continuity

Succession is a challenge family foundations often face, so establishing a well-functioning junior board can help smooth the transition to the main board. “Junior boards can promote family continuity,” explains Repko.

It also helps get family members invested earlier, which can also be its own challenge, depending on the level of excitement a junior board member has for the role. That’s where Whittier Trust comes in. “Part of our role is to get the junior board excited,” says Repko, whose team does this by showing interest in junior members as individuals, having strategic conversations and doing site visits to grantees so they can see first-hand the impact they’re having.

Conversely, some junior board members are exuberant and need help focusing their interests and refining their strategies. Whittier Trust steps in and supports them by guiding them through questions to help figure out values to create a common purpose.

Repko recalls one junior board of preteens who were so excited to be participating, but they hadn’t yet identified a mission. Whittier Trust got them together and used a core values game to help. “We identified not only the family’s core values, but their individual values as well,” she says. “When they’re really enthusiastic it’s easier for them to inspire their cousins and other family members.” Getting them involved in the process in the right way at the right time can help fuel a lifelong passion for the family foundation. It can be particularly special to have a junior board because many will have parents on the main board, providing opportunities for bonding and working together.

Inspiring Personal Growth

Repko’s favorite aspect of her job is watching junior board members grow. “They’re able to find out more about themselves and their core values. It’s one of the most beautiful parts—sometimes they think they’re just supporting a charity in their community, but they eventually realize that they have a passion for the environment, or helping women or underserved kids, for example,” she says. “They walk away with a better idea of who they are and what they want to do to make a positive impact in the world. They learn that grantmaking isn’t just a transaction—ideally, it’s a relationship.” The impact of personal growth on a family foundation, especially as it concerns giving, is immeasurable.

Whittier Trust helps create, manage and evolve junior boards, tailoring their recommendations and plans to a family’s philanthropic mission and grantmaking style, while simultaneously helping them find their own philanthropic voice.  “As the next generation moves up, there will be new trends. Junior boards today have different interests compared to their grandparents. And we’re able to welcome and support their new ideas,” says Repko.

By Robert LeBeau

Nevada may be known for its gold rush history, glamorous casinos and high-stakes poker games, but high-net-worth families learn that it’s no gamble to keep their money there. “Nevada is one of the most trust-friendly states. It’s a terrific alternative to placing your money offshore,” says Robert C. LeBeau, a senior vice president and client advisor with The Whittier Trust Company of Nevada, Inc. based in Reno.

Starting in the 1990s Nevada’s leaders watched other states, such as Delaware and South Dakota, amend their laws related to trusts to attract money from high-net-worth individuals. State leaders knew that becoming trust-friendly would help grow the economy. 

Taking those strategic steps has paid off. LeBeau notes that more and more of Whittier Trust’s high-net-worth clients, with their interest in wealth planning—particularly in efficiently passing wealth from one generation to another—have recognized that Nevada can offer both flexibility to achieve their goals and significant tax savings. “We have clients in more than 30 states who are able to set up a Nevada trust by having Whittier Trust as a trustee,” LeBeau says.

Here are three key things that establishing a Nevada-based trust can do for your family.

1. Boost Wealth

Nevada’s laws support wealth maximization for future generations through beneficial tax policies, as The Silver State imposes no income tax, transfer tax or estate tax.

Nevada also allows for what is often referred to as a “dynasty trust,” which provides for a term of as long as 365 years. By contrast, in neighboring California, a trust can last for less than a third of that time.

One family that works with Whittier Trust held multiple long-term trusts in an East Coast state. LeBeau says that transferring those trusts to Nevada let the family avoid state inheritance and income taxes.

2. Shield Assets

“Nevada has a host of forward-thinking laws regarding asset protection that many other states don’t have,” says LeBeau. “Those thoughtful, friendly laws make Nevada a great alternative to establishing a trust offshore in the Cayman Islands and other jurisdictions.” For example, Nevada law provides for asset-protection trusts, known as self-settled spendthrift trusts, that prevent most creditors from attaching trust assets and compelling distributions.

“We’ve had non-Nevada resident clients work with us to establish Nevada asset protection trusts to protect a substantial portion of their wealth from potential future creditors and ensure they have a safety net fund,” LeBeau says. 

3. Stay Flexible 

One of the most powerful advantages of Nevada’s laws is their flexibility as it applies to drafting new documents, amending existing documents and managing investments. “Circumstances can change,” says LeBeau. “In a lot of states, once a trust is in place it’s considered ‘irrevocable,’ making it hard to modify, no matter the reasons a change is warranted.”

Nevada is unique from other states, such as California, because it has statutes that provide for a “trust protector,” a role that either an individual or a trust company like Whittier Trust can fill. “A trust protector can modify an irrevocable trust agreement,” LeBeau explains. “They’ll often do this to respond to changes in law or otherwise to direct action that would be in the best interest of beneficiaries.” The provision for a trust protector is a distinct asset of doing business in Nevada.  

Developing Your Family’s Assets In Nevada

Residents of any state can set up accounts in Nevada to benefit from the state’s wealth-friendly legislation. Here are just some of the options: 

1. Decant a Trust

Many clients come to Whittier Trust with trusts established in other states that they want to decant to Nevada—that is, redistribute assets from a trust elsewhere to a new one in Nevada, on better terms. The Silver State boasts some of the best decanting statutes in the country.

“Nevada continues to enhance its decanting statute to allow for even greater flexibility,” says LeBeau. “A lot of states have decanting statutes, but they vary in terms of what is allowed.  Nevada allows for changes that some of the other jurisdictions do not.”

For example, a married couple with adult children recently came to Whittier for help with trusts established in another state. “As we do with all of our clients, we spent time doing a deep dive to get to know the family and understand their life balance sheet, estate plan and goals,” he says. The family succeeded in decanting those trusts into new Nevada trusts with improved terms that boosted flexibility and satisfied the family’s goals.

2. Implement a Directed Trust

Other clients, often business owners or families with concentrated positions in real estate or a particular security, take advantage of Nevada’s directed trust laws. “Clients may want to be involved in investment decisions, or they may want another trusted advisor or family member who makes decisions about distributions [involved],” LeBeau says. “A directed trust allows for that flexibility. That way clients can maintain some of that control, but they’re able to employ a very favorable trust structure.”

3. Execute a Dynasty Trust

“Many clients come to us looking to build their legacy and maximize wealth for the next generation,” says LeBeau. “We often work with their CPAs, attorneys and other advisors to plan how to structure the estate plan.”

For some families, that means creating a Nevada dynasty trust funded with closely-held stock from the client’s company. “That creates the ability to pass on large amounts of wealth free of state income taxes and Federal estate taxes,” he says. 

Regardless of where you live, aspects of Nevada law can benefit your high-net-worth family now and for generations to come—all without the potential complications of heading offshore.

Thomas J. Frank, Jr

As some of my colleagues know, I am a late-middle age endurance athlete – I compete in triathlons. Recently, on one of my longer training runs, I was thinking that the same qualities required for a triathlon are found in estate planning – particularly, inter-generational wealth transfers. Think of it this way, both endeavors require a good plan. At the beginning of my training season, I plan out various goals to hit prior to race day. Similarly, a good wealth transfer plan starts with a plan for how much the donors want to transfer, to whom and thoughts about time frames.

The second critical component of a successful race is good coaching. The results of my attempts at DIY coaching were not very satisfying. In response, I hired a sport-specific coach and a nutritionist who specializes in working with endurance athletes. The same is true with inter-generational wealth transfers. While it’s easy enough to make cash gifts each year to children and grandchildren, a more thoughtful approach that includes a good lawyer and accountant has a higher likelihood of positive outcomes.

Third, adjustments are ongoing. I know that for as long as I have the health and interest in pursuing triathlons, changes will be required and experimentation is encouraged. These may mean a switch-up in workouts, equipment or fueling. Similarly, with long-term estate planning, little experiments along the way may be helpful. Let’s say a family is interested in philanthropy. Before taking the leap of establishing a private foundation, they may want to “test drive” formal philanthropy by setting up a small donor advised fund. They may find that the donor advised fund is perfect for them. Or they may decide that a private foundation would be a better vehicle to achieve their goals.

In my sport, the selection of races is important to success. I had to compete at a few different distances to determine what kinds of races I wanted to pursue. Location is also important since I am fortunate enough to train in the Bay Area where I am close to sea level and the climate is temperate. In estate planning, families should think about how they want to set up gifts to younger generations. Are long-term trusts the right approach or is something shorter term a better option? Tax laws and trust rules are frequently in flux and family situations are always changing and the solutions will change in response. Flexibility is key.

Finally, what does “success” mean? For me as an aging triathlete, it is unlikely that I will end up on a winner’s podium. I’ve decided that the ability to participate at a reasonably competitive level while remaining healthy and still having time for friends and family is the most important measure of success. In the estate planning context, it may not be about avoiding taxes at all costs. Rather, it may be providing a safety net for future generations while at the same time allowing family members to support causes that are important to them. This could translate into a focus on providing funds for education and entrepreneurial efforts and then giving away the balance to charity.

In estate planning and inter-generational wealth transfer, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to success and the results. The formula for a winning strategy is the development of a plan, the addition of the right advisors, the flexibility to adapt to changing situations and a clear understanding of the goal.

Tom Frank is a Client Advisor and the Northern California Regional Manager. He regularly competes in Olympic distance and Ironman 70.3 triathlons throughout California.

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