During the summer months, many high net worth (HNW) families hold family meetings. That means we too are busy, helping our families plan these meetings in addition to facilitating all or part of the meetings. Over the next couple of weeks we will each be assisting families who are holding family meetings, so this seems like an appropriate time to start a series of blog posts on this topic.
4 Important Benefits from Having Family Meetings
- Family Meetings Help You Set Wealth Expectations for Your Children
Holding structured family meetings at least once a year allows you to gradually communicate age-appropriate information to your children and grandchildren about wealth and managing money. This also gives you time to build their involvement in philanthropy and time to reinforce your expectations for use of the family’s wealth.
- Family Meetings Provide Communication Skills and Practice Working as a Group
If you have been in a meeting with a group, you likely have seen that it can be difficult to have an organized discussion or reach consensus on issues. This can be even harder when the group members are related and can draw on a lifetime of disagreements and argument skills honed by years of practice. To successfully pass wealth to the next generation, HNW families need to be able to put family baggage aside and be able to listen, discuss and make collective decisions about the wealth and the family’s joint undertakings.
Having structured meetings, ideally facilitated by a professional, allows a family to learn how to present information efficiently, have organized discussions on difficult topics and learn to reach consensus or agree to disagree. Family meetings offer a great opportunity to practice and model for younger generations the process of working together as they develop into a team that can manage family wealth and handle unexpected events.
- Family Meetings Allow For Preparation Of Heirs (Without Financial Disclosure)
Families can use meeting time to start preparing heirs in their teens or twenties for wealth management. For example, tasks such as evaluating grant requests received by the family foundation, researching investment opportunities, or participating on a family committee each offer a great opportunity to prepare the next generation to be responsible stewards of the family wealth.
Families can also help prepare their children by having trusted advisors speak at meetings. Warner attorneys attend family meetings to help build financial understanding, governance skills and philanthropy expertise. One of our most popular programs is “Trust 101,” which helps family members develop vital trustee and beneficiary skills.
The work families do at these meetings is important for the successful transfer of wealth to the next generation, and none of this requires disclosure of the family’s specific wealth numbers to the heirs. Of course, the end goal of these meetings is to develop heirs that are prepared for more disclosure and increased participation in the family’s wealth management and philanthropic work.
- Family Meetings Create a Shared Wealth Vision Through Family Legacy
Families who are successful at passing their wealth to the next generation typically see themselves as part of something larger than themselves, have an understanding of the role of legacy within the family and have a unified vision for the family wealth. Family meetings offer opportunities to create, share and reinforce these feelings.
Meetings provide a forum in which to pass on the family legacy, including the story of how the family came to have money and the values that helped create the wealth. As the family grows in size and the initial wealth creators pass on, it becomes even more important to have meetings that share stories, connect family members and keep the family’s legacy alive.
Family meetings can also be used to turn the understanding of legacy into a family vision for the uses of wealth. This vision then guides the family’s wealth decisions over the years.
Start Reaping the Benefits of Family Meetings
The work done at family meetings is invaluable. It creates a family (no matter how large) that can communicate, work together toward common goals and raise children who can successfully steward the family’s wealth. Because of this, we are strong supporters of family meetings.
The attorneys in our Private Client and Family Office Practice have years of experience preparing for and facilitating family meetings, and we have presented on a variety of wealth-related topics to our client families at their meetings. If you wish to begin family meetings, add wealth education programs to your meetings or find a facilitator to help you conduct your meetings, please contact Susie Meyers or Mark Harder in our Private Client and Family Office Practice.