Most people would agree that we live in a fast-paced world. Aided by advances in technology, many spend their days hurriedly going from task to task while continually monitoring their social media sites like Twitter and Facebook so as not to miss anything important that may be trending. We have calendars and reminders on our phones, as well as the old paper versions that hang from refrigerators and file cabinets.
This sense of “living in the moment” leaves some with the inability to see beyond the next day, the next week, or the next year. Choosing financial goals and estate planning should be of utmost importance for the future of your family or business.
However, if you are like me, planning for the future may be one of those things that you continually put off until tomorrow. One never knows what tomorrow holds and routine daily life can change in the blink of an eye.
Heidi Hilton knows this lesson well. In August 2000 she was walking with her 2 year-old daughter, Ember, near the intersection of Dutton Road and Hammond Avenue. In an instant that would change her life forever, Hilton and her daughter were hit from behind by a drunk driver. Ember was thrown into a ditch. Heidi was thrown into the road. The driver sped off, not even stopping to see the damage he had wrought.
Hilton woke in the hospital with no memory of the accident. In fact, she had no memory of her husband, Zan, who was at her bedside. Although she sustained no broken bones, Hilton suffered from a severe closed head injury as well as broken vertebrae in her neck. Her daughter, she was told, also had a closed head injury, but would recover. She did not remember her daughter, or her 2 sons, Hunter (10) and Marshall (8).
“He took my life away for 5 years,” said Hilton, “That day changed my life forever.”
The day of the accident, students from Dutton Christian were running for track practice on Dutton Road and had witnessed the event as well as taken down the license plate number.
An 86-year old man was tracked down and found with a blood alcohol level of 1.9 at 3:30 in the afternoon. He was found guilty and sentenced to prison.
Hilton was not involved in his trial and turned her anger at him into determination to regain her life. “I was bound and determined not to let this affect me,” she states. Her energy was put into physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and helping her daughter through the same. She made it a priority to return to work as soon as possible. It was a long road, but it had its bright spots. “I got to discover my husband and fall in love with him all over again.”
With a 15-year history as an investment planner, Hilton had worked with many individuals and families in times of crisis and times of estate management. She knew the lesson that life could not be taken for granted.
Unfortunately, Hilton again suffered a head injury in an auto accident in 2008. She again faced long hours of therapy. Hilton now felt a new urgency to convince others that life is fragile and people need to look to the future including finances, business investment, and family relations.
She set a personal goal of attaining her Master’s degree in Management. After obtaining her degree from Davenport University in 2012, Hilton and her partner, Craig Coughlin, who had more than 20 years of financial expertise, brought their talents together in the Thornapple River Group.
The vision statement of the Thornapple River Group includes providing facilitated services using an integrated team of experts to achieve goals and to preserve the quality of life they desire. For high net-worth individuals, this includes business succession, estate planning, debt management, as well as concierge services such as travel arrangements, household management, personal shopping, and security services.
“I live each day with intention,” shares Hilton, “Each day I work to help someone accomplish goals.”
Both she and Coughlin are very involved in volunteerism and philanthropy. It is an essential part of their business supporting groups such as Rotary International, Van Andel Institute, and the International Student Foundation. In 2014 they became a “family office,” serving as “family officers” for those needing assistance with financial, as well as family, business, and organizational goals. Hilton’s husband, Zan, also assists clients with property management and estate holdings through his business, Thornapple Consulting.
Hilton sees herself as coming full circle since the accident in 2000. She still lives with chronic pain and slight cognitive and memory issues, but she is proud of her accomplishments. Hilton’s life philosophy now is living with an “attitude of gratitude.” She is grateful for her husband’s patience and for the tight bond she shares with her daughter due to their shared experience.
“We are all dealt a hand,” she states, “It is up to you to make the cards work.”
She stresses that no one knows what the future holds, but we do have the ability to plan, to invest, and to organize so that when a sudden death, an unexpected diagnosis, or a life-altering accident happens we are prepared.
Have you been putting off making a will? Planning your estate? Setting financial goals? Perhaps now is the time to get moving because no one knows what tomorrow may hold.