The Family Office

The “family office” generally refers to financial professionals whose work is dedicated to one or just a few very wealthy families.  The idea is that the wealth of these families is so massive that it warrants an entire financial firm dedicated only to them.

Most families do not fit into this category, but the wealth of any family is of the utmost importance to that family.  Therefore, every family should have at least two components in place to make sure their financial health is kept priority: (1) access to good advisors, and (2) the habit of talking as a family about financial matters.

These two components will empower any family to steadily improve its financial position over time, accomplishing such goals as real estate purchases, business start-ups, and generational legacies.

Do You Know Where Your Siblings Are?

It’s great that we have Facebook, WhatsApp and various social media tools to keep in touch with friends and family.  However, the legal system has not yet evolved to allow every matter to be handled online.  Knowing your family members’ physical addresses is vital to certain important legal matters, such as probate of a Will or conveyance of property via intestacy.

It may be wise to have at least one family member designated as the “registrar” of family information — at least one registrar for each group of siblings.  The registrar can keep written record of names, residence addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.; and that information may even be stored in the cloud.

Ideally, there should not come a situation where one sibling has gone off on his or her own for one reason or another, and no one knows how to get in to contact with him or her.

Power of Attorney

Our elders are the crown of the family.  While they are healthy we often feel reluctant to ask our elders if their business affairs are in order, because in a way we feel that it dishonors them.

Looking at it a different way, the younger generation and the older generation honor each other by tending to business matters.  The most basic item to put in place is a Durable Power-of-Attorney.  This document will authorize one or more “agents” (usually family members) to act on behalf of a “principal” (usually an elder family member).

A power-of-attorney can take effect immediately once it is signed and notarized, or it can be written to spring into effect at a later date or only upon the occurrence of a specific event or situation, such as a certain medical diagnosis.  The power-of-attorney may be broad or may be limited for use in particular matters, such as banking or real estate transactions.

Housing Burden

Housing burden is an important measure of a family’s financial health.  Spending too much of their monthly income on rent or mortgage will frustrate a family’s ability to build long-term wealth.

 In recent years many families around NYC have spent as much as 50-60% of their monthly income on rent or mortgage, making housing a very burdensome obligation for many New Yorkers.  State and local lawmakers have wrestled to address this challenge through affordable housing programs, offering tax incentives to housing developers to keep rents at affordable levels.

The challenge is a complex and ever-evolving one, but it has also created opportunities for real estate investors, home owners, and even first-time home buyers who do their homework.  Most important is for each individual and family to pay attention to their own housing burden percentage and to take practical steps to optimize it for long-term wealth building.

Defining Wealth

Wealth is being able to prepare the next generation of your family for excellence in life without saddling yourself or them with burdensome obligation.