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Even a fortune can disappear without sound estate planning

Some figures baffle.

Like the speed of light. Like the age and size of the universe.

And like estimates pegging the personal fortunes of America's richest families.

Consider this imagery relevant to the storied Vanderbilt family for a moment: a pile of money equaling one million dollars stacked next to a similar pile stacked next to a similar stash ... 216,000 times.

The math calculation producing a total amount on that wealth reveals a dollar amount of $216 billion. That is reportedly the ballpark figure for the fortune amassed by tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt in the 1800s when extrapolated to today's dollars.

As astounding as that nearly incalculable amount of money is, an investment strategist underscores in a recent national news article something just as remarkable linked with it.

That is this: It's mostly gone now. As writer Wes Moss notes, failed estate planning steadily worked to erode the family's massive wealth over time.

"In just one century," Moss states, "the largest estate America has ever known had dwindled to a shell of its former self."

How could such an outcome be remotely possible?

Moss points to a select few culprits that commonly feature where asset dissipation is concerned, even where differing levels of wealth are on display.

At the core is an inability of a wealth creator to timely get family members on board regarding the management aspects of an estate. Wealth can hardly be sustained and augmented when heirs and business successors lack knowledge concerning all key estate pieces and how they must work in concert to promote an overall plan. Those people need to be involved and prepared at an early juncture, or it is likely they will never be able to ensure continued estate prosperity.

Moss prominently recommends input from a proven estate attorney. "Plan ahead," he says, "and your estate will stand the test of time."

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