How to Help UHNW Clients Pass On Their Fortunes

Jill Shipley

“Money magnifies whatever is in you: Whether the good, the bad or the ugly, it expands,” argues Jill Shipley, managing director and head of governance and education at AlTi-Tiedemann Global, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.

Helping ultra-wealthy clients — with an average $50 million in investible assets — wisely spend and bequeath their money, Shipley’s main focus is the impact that wealth has on identity, relationships, the community and the world.

Working in collaboration with financial advisors, she helps not only families but family businesses, family offices and foundations.

“My job is essentially asking people to talk about money and to prepare for the unexpected and for their death,” she says.

In the interview, the 2023 ThinkAdvisor LUMINARIES award finalist in the category of Thought Leadership, explains why a family governance plan should be in place “before you need one.”

And she points out how the challenges to wealth creators and to inheritors differ. Most wealth creators “don’t come from money,” she says. So once they’re spectacularly successful, they “feel like immigrants in this land of wealth.”

As for the inheritors, they carry guilt “if they did nothing to earn the money” and have the feeling of “not fitting in,” particularly because of “the stigma of being part of the 1%,” Shipley says.

She also discusses families’ need for a conflict-management policy, a “just-in-case” plan, and of course a succession plan for business owners.

What’s her take on the TV series, “Succession”? She brands it “a sensationalized drama of what not to do,” then goes on to say why.

Denver-based, Shipley, who has worked in the governance arena for more than 20 years, has taught courses in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Executive Education Wealth Management Program.

Before joining AlTi-Tiedemann, she was with Cresset Capital and the Institute for Family Culture at Abbot Downing.

ThinkAdvisor recently held a phone interview with Shipley, who was speaking from Denver.

Indeed, she knows plenty about money’s multiple facets and effects, including that, much to the dismay of many, “Money doesn’t create happiness. If you have a gaping hole in your happiness, money doesn’t fill it,” the money expert maintains.

Here are highlights of our interview:

THINKADVISOR: What are the challenges of multigenerational wealth to families and advisors?

JILL SHIPLEY: The challenges are different for the wealth creators versus the inheritors.

The majority of wealth creators grew up with little resources. They worked extremely hard and sacrificed to give their kids a better life and reached financial success.

But now the creators feel like immigrants in this land of wealth. They feel lost. The challenges are: What is my identity? Especially if you sold your business that you spent your whole life building.

What do I do with this wealth? Am I going to become a different person?

And what are the challenges for the inheritors?

They carry so much guilt, especially today, when the stigma of being part of the 1% is extremely negative.

If they did nothing to earn the money, the feeling of guilt, of having more than those around them, of not fitting in, can be very challenging.

They can activate their resources to create positive change in the world, but [inheriting that wealth] weighs heavily on them.

You write that “money is a magnifier.” How so?

We’re taught to believe that success and happiness are tied to money.

But people realize that if you reach the pinnacle of success, it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. Money doesn’t create happiness.

If you have a gaping hole in your happiness, money doesn’t fill it.

Money magnifies whatever is in you. Whether the good, the bad or the ugly, it expands.

Why is family governance critically important?

It’s necessary to have a plan in place before you need one. It’s so much easier to determine how you’re going to deal with challenges and issues while you’re all getting along — to have agreed upon a plan in peacetime.

So, if there’s a health crisis, such as injury, dementia, incapacitation, having a plan before you need it can really help sustain relationships, as well as whatever the enterprise [business] is that the family wants to preserve.

So much of your work is about the future, but people mostly live for the moment or in the moment. How do you reconcile that with planning for dire things?

My job is essentially asking people to talk about money, which is hard, and to prepare for the unexpected and for their death.

As uncomfortable as that is to discuss, we need to plan for it. That’s what I help our clients do.

Where and when do financial advisors enter the scenario?

They’re a key part of the team. I’ve spent my whole career working in an integrated model. The financial, technical, risk management all have overlaps and implications. This is an interconnected system.

So looking at it in a holistic way is in service of the family.

Working in collaboration with the folks that are focusing on the financial, the legal, technical is critical for success.

Are you part of advisor-client meetings?

Always. I’m brought in by the advisor. They support the family. The advisor is doing education around the technical.

Sometimes I’m “translating” it into the language the family speaks because it’s very complicated for them to understand.