Wealth Transition Structures

A fundamental question in wealth transition for business is determining what wealth is to be transferred in the Family Wealth Transfer Process. The family wealth system teaches us that there is much more to the picture than financial capital. For most families, the family operating business subsystem is a storehouse of human and social capital, in addition to financial capital, all in varying degrees of importance.

For any family, the process of mapping all these kinds of capital may be challenging. The following table summarizes the types of capital within the operating business subsystem for which wealth transition structures must be created.

Financial Capital Human Capital Social Capital
  • Equity interests in business
  • Tangible business assets
  • Intellectual property
  • Goodwill and going concern value
  • Employment contracts/salaries/wages
  • Favorable leases and other contracts for inputs
  • Real estate used in business
  • Loans to/from company, guarantees, other credit support
  • Insurance (e.g., key person or split-dollar)
  • Fringe benefits
  • Qualified plans and non-qualified deferred compensation plans
  • Education or experiences that will benefit the business
  • Ability to understand, set, and implement business goals
  • Ability to make decisions
  • Ability to allocate resources within business to achieve goals
  • Ability to manage people
  • Technical skills
  • Salesmanship
  • Understanding use of debt
  • Ability to share wealth with others including charities, community and other family members


  • Governance systems that work
  • Good relations with employees, union
  • Relationships with customers, vendors, and others that provide inputs
  • Good relations with regulatory agencies
  • Productive relationships with advisors: lawyers, CPAs, etc.
  • Good banking relationships
  • Existing buy-sell agreements
  • Community connections. Charitable activities
  • Good credit rating