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The following was published in the 2005-2006 Financial Resources Guide for Successful New Jersey Women. A special publication from Garden State Woman Magazine.

          "Most People Don’t Understand that Estate Taxes are Optional"

An interview with Jack Sullivan,
Founder – Heritage Wealth Counselors, LLC

Jack Sullivan founded Heritage Wealth Counselors in 1998 to serve affluent families (typically having a net worth of $20 million or more) and their complex inheritance issues. Jack “quarterbacks” for his client, helping guide performance from various team contributors that affluent families maintain.

Tell us about the special needs of affluent families.

Too many people focus too heavily on tax savings as their basis for planning. We emphasize that our clients start with a family mission statement and focus on incorporating the client’s values and principles into their ultimate plan.

What are the issues to consider?

Beyond the obvious immediate personal requirements they need to think about what to leave to future generations and to society. What is the legacy they hope to leave? Should they create their own foundation or channel gifting through other organizations? While there are over 44,000 private foundations in the country, wealthy families (other than those wanting total control over managing their assets) are moving away from creating their own foundations because of the major complexities involved. The final piece is to retain expertise on the government’s future impact on holdings. Most people simply don’t understand that with proper planning, estate taxes are optional.

Where do Family Offices fit into the picture?

The Family Office concept originated in the 1980’s, when smart, high net worth individuals realized their financial empires should be run like any other successful business. Multi-family offices are now gaining popularity when a group of families join together to share expenses and leverage the benefits of skilled people handling the assets. When successful, the multi-family concept simplifies lives by providing outstanding management of expenses and non-vanilla investments, from alternative assets, private equity deals and real estate holdings. In New Jersey there are just a few family offices. The annual cost to participate in a multi-family structure typically runs between 0.50 and 1.00 of assets.

Are Most Affluent Families Good at Managing Their Personal Assets?

It has been our experience that many wealthy families, particularly those headed by first-generation entrepreneurs, frequently pay too little attention to managing their own personal long-range money affairs.

Often the wealthy buy into the “hype” of various organizations that are targeting them. As a result, over years, they wind up with a disjointed team of professional advisors. Because the efforts of these advisors are not coordinated, inefficiencies are rampant; clients get far less than optimum results. We see significant risks that wealthy families have using various investment advisors, none talking to each other, and frequently investing in the same situations, leaving clients dangerously over-weighted.

Why Should Affluent Families Consider Heritage Wealth Counselors?

We focus on overseeing asset and risk management and tax planning. We devote up-front time working with clients to shape the family mission and develop the supporting plan. We work hard to bring all impacted family members into the process. After implementing a new plan or completing strategy-filling gaps in a current plan, we aggregate all financial information on a proprietary database. We provide concise tools for a client to get a quick snapshot of their complete position. We succeed by working with the clients’ specialists, operating as a “quarterback” to execute their game plan.

The end objective is to leave the family positive and intact following an in depth planning process. Unfortunately, if not handled correctly, great wealth can ultimately destroy the family.


By Jack Sullivan