Points to know
- Families successful at transferring wealth share the common trait of effective communication.
- With a little planning, a family meeting can strengthen the bonds of communication, help you achieve your goals and pass on your values, and provide family fun.
Strengthening family ties through communication
When it comes to wealth planning, every family's different. But the ones most successful at transferring their wealth typically have one thing in common: effective communication.
Hold family meetings to open the critical lines of communication.
Beyond starting a dialogue, these gatherings also provide an opportunity to educate heirs, build or maintain trust and harmony, and pass on your values—all keys to helping preserve your legacy and ensure the successful transfer of wealth.
They also create a forum where you can involve your family in making decisions about important matters.
Having a say in decisions can deepen your family's commitment to carrying out your legacy. And the ability to come together and reach a consensus will make the wealth transfer process easier for everyone down the road.
Preparing for family meetings
Meetings can be large or small, formal or informal. They often include a mix of work and relaxation. You don't have to follow a set formula—simply follow an approach that feels right for your family and your goals.
Get the most out of your meetings with these suggestions.
Set an agenda
Before you meet, clearly define what you want to communicate or accomplish. This will help you focus the discussion and make the best use of everyone's time. Try not to cover too many topics in one meeting.
When determining how long the meeting should last, remember that attention spans can dwindle, so incorporate breaks.
What should you talk about? Sharing the details of your estate plan is an obvious choice, but you can cover anything that supports your family's needs.
You could share family history, discuss charitable planning, or recognize a family member's achievements.
As you begin to involve your family in your estate plans, you could also consider creating a family mission statement that unites everyone around a shared purpose for your wealth.
Depending on your goals, you can invite the entire family or ask only certain members to attend. You may also want to include an attorney, tax advisor, or wealth or estate planner if that would be helpful.
For example, imagine you've decided it's time to discuss your estate plan with your heirs, to make them aware of where your assets will go when you pass away. In this case, you could invite the family members (and possibly their spouses) who will receive the assets.
You may also want to include an objective third party in the meeting—such as your estate planning attorney or trusted advisor. They'll have a thorough understanding of your plan and goals and be available to answer questions.
Pick the right time and place
Choose a time and location that's convenient for everyone and fits the purpose of the meeting.
For simple matters, a dinner conversation at home might be all you need. But if you're tackling a complex subject, a place without all the distractions of home—a private room at a country club or your attorney's office—may be better.
If you host a larger, lengthier meeting, consider making it into a retreat over the course of several days.
Putting best practices to work
Set some ground rules
At the meeting, set a few ground rules to create a productive environment. You can start with high-level guidelines that focus on mutual respect, honesty, and integrity.
Next, consider more specific rules like turning off mobile devices and staying on the agenda.
Have assigned roles
Who will lead the meeting? Will someone take meeting minutes? Do you need a timekeeper to help you stay on track? Assigning and rotating roles gives attendees a purpose and can help you get through the agenda.
Be mindful of family dynamics
Family relationships can be complicated. To make meetings a positive experience, make sure everybody feels like they're being treated fairly.
Focus on inclusion, show respect for one another's strengths and weaknesses, and make sure each person has a chance to contribute. This could mean arranging things like child care so parents with younger children can attend.
REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN
Family meetings shouldn't only be about business and agenda items. Allow for downtime so your family can talk and enjoy one another's company. It's a great opportunity for bonding among family members.
Decide when to meet again
You don't need to determine in advance how often you should meet. Let your family's needs dictate the frequency.
You might also want to schedule them around certain life events, such as the sale of a business, the passing of a family member, or significant changes to your wealth plan.