What do you want your estate to do with your real estate assets?
As you aged, you decided that you needed help managing your real estate investments. The kids have moved far away and lack interest in managing the assets. You have turned to a property manager, who is handling the day- to- day operations of the properties.
As part of the transition process, you had a choice of gifting shares (portions) of your real estate assets to your kids before you and your spouse passed away, but you decided that the tax benefits were not worth the risk of losing control of your assets.
One question you have to ask yourself is: do you trust your kids? Do they care enough about not stealing your assets from you before your death? What about their spouses? How you raised your children will have a huge impact on your decisions. You also need to consider if they have the interest, time and skill-set to take care of the assets the way you do.
Some families start early and have the kids clean and paint vacant apartment properties with their parents. Other families have regular family meetings (say once or twice a year) to inspect the properties, review financial statements and make major decisions. These meetings can be held face to face, over the phone or using tools such as Skype. As the asset base gets larger, say over $2,000,000, you might consider involving a property manager. The property manager can then facilitate the family meetings and help with the decision making. This is a huge responsibility and will take a sophisticated, well educated and experienced property manager.
Recently, one of our clients whose shareholders are spread out all over the west coast, agreed to fund the further education of the next generation by paying for basic real estate finance classes for the next generation.
Another issue you need to come to grips with is the age and maturity of those that are going to lead the investment decisions in the future. One of our attorney friends advised us to write a letter to the next generations that gives them a theme and context of past investment decisions, the establishment of financial cash reserves and why holding onto real estate and developing a large asset base is a good long term strategy.
This may work well for the second generation, but by the time you get to the third generation you may have 10 grand children vying for cash and an input into the decision making process.
To create a real estate legacy you need to start with leadership and real estate training early. Not all have an aptitude for leadership and interest in real estate or financial analysis. You will need to develop fair and transparent procedures that can be adjusted to the personalities in the next and following generations. This will take an investment of time and money with real estate and estate attorneys, property managers and CPA’s. If you want to leave a legacy, the payoff will be large and in your heart of hearts you will have succeeded not only for yourself, but for your children and grandchildren.
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