The other day I read in a column in Forbes by Kelly Phillips Erb that a Pennsylvania widow lost her home because she overlooked the $6.30 interest on a tax penalty in 2008. By 2011, the interest had grown to $255.84. The bank seized her home and sold it at a sheriff’s sale for $120,000. The new owner offered to sell it back to her for $260,000.

What did I think when reading it? “If only she had a financial planner, the house would have been saved!” OK. I’m jumping the gun. She is not rich and probably could not afford a financial planner. But arcane financial details stymie the rich as well as the rest of us, and the rich can pay for help. Where to go?

Traditionally, banks took care of this type of financial service for the affluent. But since the 1970s, banks have been in turmoil and they’ve lost much of this business. Or did they chase it away?

One solution for affluent families is to band together to form a family office or multi-family office to take care of financial details that range from closing a mortgage or buying a boat to planning your estate and setting up a retirement plan. (Some family offices will walk your dog, plan your vacation, even do your grocery shopping.)

But where to go for a multitasking leader who can handle all this stuff? Setting family goals and values is a big part of this job and requires a vision as well as multiple skills. Sometimes a leader is recruited from within the family, to good and less-good results. As technology grows more sophisticated, family members may not have the necessary knowledge to lead the family. For all these reasons, I was excited when I chanced upon a woman who has trained herself—although perhaps not with this goal in mind—in family structure and governance and all the other issues that might trip up families.

Her name is Kirby Rosplock. She grew up in her family’s lumber business, Babcock Lumber Co., based in Pittsburgh. A part of the business was a 92,000 acre Florida ranch that was celebrated for “running green” and for its overall positive effect on the environment. Rosplock and her siblings and cousins spent summers working on the family ranch, the Crescent B, when they were growing up. In an article about her family that ran in a magazine called Family Business (written by Rosplock), one cousin told a story about an experience she had in her first summer at the ranch. Her job was to harvest alligator eggs from the swamp on the ranch. The cousins and the ranch hands were to hold off Mama Gator and the water moccasins.

“It was an exhilarating rush,” this cousin said, “as my other cousins and the ranch hands would be trying to keep momma gator and the water moccasins away while I snatched one or two eggs from each nest.” The eggs would later be sold to local alligator farms. In the same article, Rosplock wrote: “The ranch was a wonderful place for family to work hard and experience the wonder of the great outdoors as well as to get hands-on, practical experience.”

The Babcock family was involved early on in the campaign to save the environment, too. They took care to clear the underbrush on the ranch to reduce the risk of wildfires and made certain that no exotic plant or animal would be introduced at the ranch for fear it would alter the habitat. The Crescent B Ranch was one of the last remaining expansive areas for the Florida panther.

Rosplock loved growing up in the outdoors, but she didn’t plan to work in the family business. Rather, her goal was to work abroad and, to further that end, she concentrated her studies in languages such as Latin and German, as well as German culture, when she earned her B.A., with honors, from Middlebury College in Vermont.

She did go abroad, living in Salzburg and Cologne, where she learned this was not the life for her. “I realized I was not cut out to be the expat I thought I was,” she says. “This was the 50th anniversary of World War II, and there was so much guilt. It made me love America much more,” she says. “I headed back to the states.”

There she worked as a broker and at a hedge fund, meanwhile completing an MBA at Marquette University where she studied private equity finance and entrepreneurship. In 2004, she was recruited by GenSpring, one of the largest multifamily offices in the country. Rosplock, who is about to turn 40, worked in asset management and then headed research and development for a decade, which again boosted her interest in the psychology of families and behavioral change in families. She says that while she was becoming “a student of family organizations,” she realized there was no material available for someone who wanted to learn about family offices.

“I had so many great books on wealth management,” she said. “But I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a book geared to the layperson that demystifies the family office and includes the emotional element,” she says. (In the industry, an SFO, or single-family office, is distinct from the MFO or multifamily office.) “Why was there nothing in the middle? Why no thought leaders’ guide to family wealth?” Rosplock believes that understanding the family’s nonfinancial needs is an essential part of working with them. Her mantra: “Why does it matter how wealth is managed if the family is a train wreck?”

She contacted Jay Hughes, a highly regarded consultant to the affluent and an estate planning expert, who had written a successful book called Family Wealth: Keeping It In the Family. (His Web site is Hughes mentored Rosplock as she talked with Wiley Publishing and developed an outline for her “handbook.” When Wiley offered her a contract, she signed it and wrote the book, The Complete Family Office Handbook: A Guide for Affluent Families and the Advisors Who Serve Them.

In her book, Rosplock defines the family office like this: “The purpose of the family office is to manage and oversee the wealth management affairs of highly affluent individuals and their families in regard to such issues as tax, wealth transfer, investment management, governance, estate planning, risk management, compliance, education, communication, and so on.”

In 2007, Rosplock’s family business went through a big transition. The Florida ranch was sold and the business was restructured. “It created this amazing energy within the culture,” Rosplock says.

At the time the family closed the deal, the buyer, Kitson & Partners, a private residential and commercial real estate investment and development company, sold 73,000 acres of what had been the Crescent B Ranch to the state for its Florida Forever program, the state’s conservation and recreation lands acquisition program. She has also been developing research and educational material and creating a board game for education about wealth.

In her spare time, she muses on these questions: How do you constantly reassess the business and the family and the family office? How do you manage goals and expectations? How do we balance the now with the demands of the future? How do we set priorities? When she was researching and writing the book, she still worked at GenSpring and cared, along with her husband, for their two small children.

She says she never expected to live in Florida after growing up in what she remembers as “the cold, gray, inclement weather” in states like Wisconsin, where she lived for seven years. “I couldn’t get used to “the sensation of so much sunshine,” she says. “For the first couple months, I wore sunglasses all the time.” Rosplock and her husband, John, and their two daughters, ages 6 and 4, seem to be settling in to the sunshine. When I met her at a Family Wealth Alliance conference in February in Palm Beach, she was wearing flip-flops. Her friends and relatives were shoveling out from one of the worst winters in history.

Mary Rowland can be reached at [email protected]. She has been a business and personal finance journalist for 30 years and has written two books for financial advisors: Best Practices and In Search of the Perfect Model.