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Legacy Matters
BlogsPublications | April 15, 2019
3 minute read
Legacy Matters

Starting (and Sustaining) Family Meetings

Last week Warner attorney Susan Gell Meyers presented a webinar for the Family Office Exchange, an organization which supports wealthy families and their advisors in managing wealth and operating family offices. Susan was joined by Ellie Frey Zagel, founder and President of Successful Generations, which offers services and a community for people in the next generations of high net worth families, family businesses and philanthropists.

For this webinar, Susan drew on her years of experience working with families of wealth, both as a facilitator of family meetings and as a source of assistance as families plan their meetings. Ellie shared lessons learned as a participant in family meetings and experiences shared with her by members of other families.
Ellie and Susan focused on six frequently asked questions:

  1. Why do we need to meet?
    • Trust and good communication have been shown to improve the chances of successfully transferring and managing wealth for multiple generations.
    • Family meetings are about conversation among the family, rather than talking at each other. Conversation creates buy-in from family members and provides transparency and alignment of expectations about family wealth and its uses.
    • Ellie shared some of the consequences of her family’s attempts to privately communicate information about wealth using individual meetings with family members. She also shared some benefits realized from meeting together as a family, and how they overcame their fits and starts with family meetings.
  2. What do we need to talk about as a family? How do we facilitate conversation?
    • While some specific topics were suggested, Susan and Ellie emphasized that creating thoughtful meeting agendas must address more than the purpose of the meeting. Careful thought must also be given to intangibles, such as each individual’s emotional reaction to money and how individuals in the family best absorb information.
    • Agendas should include some fun time to facilitate family bonding.
    • Best practices include establishing ground rules of conduct for meetings, taking meeting minutes and identifying actions for follow-up after each meeting.  
  3. Where should we meet?
    • They shared questions to ask and criteria to use when choosing a meeting place (e.g., who is paying, who is attending, how long is needed for the meeting).
    • They also noted the advantages of meeting in a neutral location or possibly out of town if you have high-profile members of your family.
  4. Who should attend the meetings?
    • Families must consider questions such as:
      • Descendants only attend?
      • Include spouses?
      • Age limits for attendance?
    • Families receive several benefits from having a non-family member facilitate the meeting or present certain information at a meeting.
    • Ellie presented ideas for age-appropriate activities for children to do while the adults are meeting.
    • Ideas were shared about how to incentivize younger family members to come to meetings.
  5. When should we meet?
    • Determining how long meetings should last should be based on the personalities in your family.
    • How often the family needs to meet can change depending on current circumstances.
  6. How do we sustain meetings?
    • Susan and Ellie shared tips on keeping meetings interesting and relevant over the years so that attendance does not drop off.
    • Rotating meeting planning responsibilities can create buy-in and help develop younger family members.

This webinar is packed with information for families interested in meeting. To watch a replay of this webinar, please click here for the link (you may need to use Internet Explorer to view the video). If you have any questions about family meetings or if your family would like assistance as you begin holding family meetings, please contact Susan Gell Meyers at 616-752-2184 or
Click here to see our other blog posts about family meetings.