How Family Wealth Planning Meetings Can Safeguard the Success of Future Generations

It is widely believed that people are more reluctant to speak about money and finances than politics or sex.  And that remains true even in this political maelstrom.

Family conversations regarding wealth and planning can be uncomfortable for all involved. Families typically do not discuss wealth openly. But they should. 

Leaving a legacy speaks to more than just a gift of money. Your financial well-being was made possible by your values and efforts by implementing the lessons you learned from life’s vast experiences. Passing on these values and lessons can be as valuable to the success of future generations as leaving them your money. 

We witness individuals spending time and resources preparing their money for their family, but they often do not prepare family members for the money. It is a misconception that having an estate plan, even when complete with Wills and Trusts, is enough to ensure all your wishes are carried out. Long-term family goals can derail when a family member is not prepared for wealth transfer. To increase the probability that your legacy is upheld the way you want, direct communication to heirs is very important, such as sharing your goals and desires for how you would like to see family wealth spent or invested.

How a Family Wealth Planning Meeting Can Help with Wealth Transfer

Holding a family meeting provides a forum to discuss how your values and ethics shaped how the wealth was earned and protected. We recommend involving your financial planner throughout the process, as they can often help diffuse tensions and keep conversations moving in a positive direction. Together, you should outline your goals for the first meeting. You should identify your long-term goals for the next generations:  Financial Security?  Education Funding? Charitable Planning? Togetherness at a family home? A decision also needs to be made about who should attend the meeting. Is it just the immediate family at first and then adding in-laws, significant others, or step-relatives in the future? 

What to Share at a Family Wealth Planning Meeting

Most people share the same concerns regarding having this family conversation. What and how much do we tell the children? How specific do we get? Are we creating an expectation of wealth or a sense of entitlement for our children? These are normal and expected emotions and questions. And the answers can depend on individual family circumstances. But don’t let these concerns prevent you from scheduling the meeting.

During this meeting, you can share the history of your family’s wealth, along with the values and philosophies that guided you and the generations before you to this point. You can explain the structure of the estate (with or without specific dollar values) and what makes up the estate, including types of accounts owned, real estate, investments, life insurances, collectibles, and tchotchkes.  The meeting should provide a forum to discuss future family plans or goals, such as wealth transfer, business transfer, charitable intent, and overall family values. It is also an opportunity to introduce the key advisors in your life, such as your Financial Planner, CPA, and Estate Planning Attorney. We highly recommend inviting questions from the younger generations. Allowing an open, two-way dialogue is important.

A family wealth conversation is not an “end of life” event. Do not wait for a health scare or a death in the family to initiate a conversation, as it may undermine the wealth transfer process. We recommend starting the conversation early. By not communicating your thoughts with your family, you leave your legacy open to the risk of assumption versus truth, the creation of secrecy, and the potential for the dissemination of misinformation. Not having this conversation can lead to something more uncomfortable than a proactive financial discussion.

Curious if a family wealth planning meeting would benefit your family? Contact an EKS advisor today.

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