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Legacy Matters

August 04, 2020

Family Meetings Go Virtual in 2020: Part 1 – Putting the “Family” into Virtual Family Meetings

Like many families this year, you may have planned a family meeting at a wonderful destination which involved a mix of planned activities, business and education. But now you realize that the family may not feel comfortable traveling at this time. Even as you cancel travel plans, the family may still need to make some decisions, and you have business to discuss, regarding your family business, investment strategies or general financial education. And what about the connectivity that meetings provide for the overall health and development of the family? 
 

Consider a virtual family meeting
If you are like many families, your meetings include part business, part development and part fun. Rather than cancelling all of these, holding a virtual family meeting is a great way to accomplish your original objectives. But how do you avoid virtual meeting fatigue and actually have some family fun?

Recreating the family development and fun activities in a virtual environment works best when you are willing to reimagine the meeting, looking for and playing to the strengths of the virtual world. We present some ideas below to help your family spend quality time “together” and grow your skills. 
 

Create family togetherness experiences
If you can’t physically be together, think about activities that would allow you to spend time together in an online environment. Once the activities are determined, create “welcome packages” of items that can help facilitate this family togetherness and mail these out to the families before the start of the meeting. Ways for the family to get together virtually include:
 

  • Have a virtual game night. There are plenty of games that can be played online now (even the classics like Monopoly and Scrabble). Or send everyone the same game in the family welcome package so they can play together in video calls. Another great option─play games that use personal questions to help understand generations and family members.
    • Play the “Did you know?” game. Each member of the family discloses a fact about their lives that they do not believe all of the other family members know. It is a great way for more senior generations to share that all-important family history with younger family members.
    • The “What is your favorite?” game is a great way for younger generations to talk about their lives and get to know each other while sharing what they like doing, what they like to eat, who their favorite teacher has been and so forth. Always make sure to ask them why these are favorites.
  • Host a virtual cocktail party or a family happy hour. Host a video call and have everyone gather with a snack and drink and just chat. Breakout calls could be used here to give everyone a chance to chat in small groups. In the family welcome package, include a special snack and some drink options appropriate for each family: a bottle of wine, mixes for smoothies or some recipes and ingredients for fun kid drinks.
  • Meet for a virtual family dinner.
    • Host a video call or a few small group video calls where everyone is dining together. Make it easy by having a similar meal delivered to everyone that night.
    • If your family usually cooks together, have a meal kit delivered to each family and have a video call where everyone is cooking their meal together.
    • Ask families to share photos and some family news before the meeting. Create a slide show of the photos and news to share on the call before or after dinner.
    • If you typically use a placemat or place card with the family logo or mission statement on it, send these in the family welcome package.​
  • Learn a new skill by doing an activity together over a video call (include the materials in the family welcome package):
    • Do a craft project like make a scrapbook page, decorate a cake or build something (Home Depot and others have kits for families or you can create your own).
    • Take a lesson from an expert. Anything your family wants to learn would work here, but it is even better if a family member has a talent they can share such as photography, swing dancing, cartooning, etc.​
  • Plan a creative event via video call like a talent show, battle of the bands night or a lip sync video competition.
  • Hold a virtual scavenger hunt. During a video call, each family team creates a list of items that other teams must find (the crazier the better) within the agreed-upon time limit. Winners could be the first team to gather all the items or perhaps the team with most creative items found.
  • Create custom shirts, hats, aprons or other apparel items to be worn during family game night, video meals or other events. Include these in the family welcome package.

Do some family development
You probably have some unspent budget since you are not paying for travel and accommodations for everyone. Use these funds to work on group skills for the family, help family members develop themselves or help them learn about the family legacy.
  • Invite a speaker on a call to present about a topic that the whole family would enjoy and learn from. Or bring in a couple of speakers that appeal to members of different generations or life stages.
  • Do a virtual book club meeting by having everyone read the same book (or a couple of chapters) and discuss it. Ideas for book topics include family history, leadership, social issues or raising children in an environment of wealth. Include the books in the family welcome package.
  • Learn about philanthropy. Set aside an amount of money to donate. Provide guidelines for the teens/young adults in the family to evaluate a charitable organization of interest to them and create a short video to persuade the family to make a donation to that organization.
  • Learn about family legacy by having a genealogy specialist or knowledgeable family member give a presentation (on a video call or by creating a video) highlighting some of the interesting and important events in the family’s history. If possible, record the presentation for future generations.


Start preparing for the “family” part of a virtual family meeting
Warner can assist as you reimagine your family meeting and bring your vision to life. Our attorneys have facilitated virtual meeting sessions for families and helped families to plan their virtual family meetings. Reach out to your Warner attorney for assistance or contact Jennifer Remondino, Chair of the Trusts and Estates Practice Group, at jremondino@wnj.com or at 616.396.3243. 

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