A First Foundation Blog

What is Wealth Planning? Pt. 4: Risk Management

3 minute read

Risk Management is planning for the “what if” scenarios that no one wants to occur. What if I become disabled? What if I am subject to a lawsuit? What if I pass away prematurely? These unfortunate scenarios could have a significant negative impact on your family’s financial security. The hope is that these scenarios never occur, but there are no guarantees they won’t—so planning should be done to protect your financial security if they do. The type and extent of risk management planning, like other areas of wealth planning, depends on your current situation.

Survivor Needs – Income Replacement

What happens if the wage earner in the family passes away prematurely and there are not enough savings to support the family for an extended period of time? Given the current cost of living, many families need two incomes, and the loss of even just one could result in serious financial difficulties. 

Risk management planning in this situation is to develop a plan so that there are enough resources to insure your family’s financial security. This starts with building an emergency fund which provides the temporary funding to support the family. Normally it is a good idea to have enough to cover close to six months of expenses. These funds should be liquid (easily converted to cash) and therefore immediately available. 

The emergency fund is only meant to be a temporary source of funds, and is not intended to provide long term financial security. Additional planning will need to be done with the goal of generating enough funds to replace the income of the deceased spouse. Generally, the most cost efficient way of doing this is by purchasing term life insurance with a large enough death benefit, or disability insurance to provide the income replacement protection needed. A wealth plan can help determine amount of insurance needed to meet the desired financial goals.

Planning for Liquidity Needs

In certain situations, planning will need to be done to generate the liquidity needed to obtain certain goals. For example, assume that there are two individuals, who are equal owners of a successful business. If something were to happen to either one of them, like a premature death, neither partner may want to run the business with the deceased partner’s family. One way to avoid this is to enter into a buy-sell agreement funded with life and disability insurance. The buy-sell agreement will likely be drafted to give each partner the right to purchase the deceased partner’s share at a specified price, with the insurance providing the liquidity to execute this option.

And for those with large enough estates that would make them subject to estate taxes, liquidity planning is important to ensure there are funds available to pay the estate taxes. This is especially true for those whose assets are mostly illiquid (e.g., real estate or ownership of a closely held business). By having a plan to provide liquidity, such as purchasing an insurance policy, your family could avoid having to sell assets to pay estate taxes at your death.

Asset Protection

An important part of risk management planning is not only planning to provide financial security for your family in the event of your passing or disability, but also protecting your assets from other possible risks while you are alive. If you are in a profession that could make you subject to personal liability and lawsuits (e.g., doctors and attorneys), it is important to protect yourself from these litigation risks. Through the planning process, we can explore the different actions that can be taken to protect the financial well-being of you and your family. Such actions include the creation of qualified retirement plans or certain trusts that can offer a level of creditor protection.


The discussions regarding risk management planning are not pleasant. They are the scenarios we hope never happen. A lack of a wealth plan could have disastrous consequences to your family, and could jeopardize their financial well-being. By undergoing the planning process now, you can have the peace of mind that your family will have financial security even if these worst-case scenarios were to occur. 

If you are already a client of First Foundation Advisors, please reach out to your financial advisor to learn more.

Read Part 5: Legacy Planning


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Daniel Fan, J.D., LL.M., CFP®, Senior Managing Director – Head of Wealth Planning
About the Author
Daniel Fan, J.D., LL.M., CFP®, Senior Managing Director – Head of Wealth Planning
Daniel Fan serves as the Senior Managing Director – Head of Wealth Planning for First Foundation Advisors. In this role, he oversees the firm's Wealth Planning department and advises clients on sophisticated wealth strategies. Mr. Fan has over 15 years of experience as a Wealth Planner and specializes in evaluating and optimizing all clients' wealth plans to meet their financial needs. He works closely with all teams across First Foundation and ensures he delivers a personalized experience to support all clients. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Fan was a Senior Vice President, Director of Wealth Planning and Insurance at First Bank Wealth Management, where he implemented the financial planning process for all business segments. He also worked as the Vice President, Regional Director, Senior Wealth Strategist at Union Bank Private Wealth Planning and as a Senior Vice President, Senior Wealth Planning Strategist at Wells Fargo Private Bank. Mr. Fan is a Certified Financial Planner® and holds his Juris Doctorate and Master's in taxation from Pepperdine University School of Law and Golden Gate University respectively. He earned his Bachelor's degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. Read more