Preparing for Unexpected Disaster — Susan Schoenfeld

Inspiration And Insights
5 min readFeb 2, 2023


Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Susan R. Schoenfeld, CEO and Founder of Wealth Legacy Advisors LLC serves as a ‘thought partner’ to families of wealth through personal attention and human spirit. Susan is an award-winning Thought Leader; she provides guidance on legacy, next-generation, stewardship, governance, leadership succession, and philanthropy. Susan recently spoke about operational and philosophical aspects to preparing for unexpected disaster.

“It’s an interesting question to contemplate what happens on Day One, after you get hit by that proverbial bus, and someone has to come in and know literally where the keys are, whether that someone is your child or the president of your family office.

“I recommend that you think about creating what I like to call a comprehensive roadmap. Include contact information for all your investment, life insurance and other advisors, include all of your digital passwords, even the location where your cemetery deed can be found. Also plan to leave clear directions from a business perspective.

“It would be wonderful if, before you get hit by the bus, you actually have thought about and put pen to paper and talked about your philosophy, the values that that created your wealth and who you are as a family. There are operational aspects and there are also philosophical aspects to preparing for unexpected disaster. Putting it down on paper or in a video where you’re speaking in your own authentic voice is critical.

“It is especially critical if you’ve done something in your estate plan that is to you equitable, but is not necessarily equal. For example, imagine that you have two children, and one is a docent at museum or a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, or works for a nonprofit or is an inner-city school teacher or is a stay-at-home parent, or something else that you perceive to have social value but is not necessarily as economically rewarding as being a captain of industry. So that’s child one, and child two is Kim Kardashian who probably doesn’t need help from her parents to pay next month’s rent.

“If that was your situation, perhaps in your estate plan you might treat your children differently to take care of the child who does need your help paying next month’s rent. Or perhaps one of your kids has a special need or is unfortunately suffering from an addiction, and you decide that one child will receive their inheritance outright and the other’s will be in trust. There are any number of ways that you can be equitable but not equal in that regard.

“My number one rule here is communication. I frequently repeat this quote from George Bernard Shaw: ‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’ We often think we have communicated so much more than we have, or sometimes we think we’ve communicated much less than we have. Sitting your kids down and explaining in your own voice why you’ve done what you’ve done can prevent many problems before they arise, and hopefully will avoid the dreaded ‘Mom or Dad loved you better’ sibling rivalry with your kids.

“So for me, it all comes back to communication.”

Susan Schoenfeld, a public speaker & thought partner to families of wealth and their advisors, is an author and award-winning thought leader. Susan’s decision to switch from being a successful estate planning attorney and CPA to become a trusted family advisor and thought partner was inspired by families of wealth asking her searching questions beyond estate tax planning. As a conflict-free advisor who provides no investment, tax, or legal advice and sells no product, Susan shares her insights directly with wealthy families and with financial services experts. She is active as a keynote speaker and a leader of break-out sessions and workshops at conferences throughout the US.