Family wealth is often thought of as tangible assets such as investments or possessions, yet sometimes the most valuable things families share are intangible. It is impossible to place a price tag on traditions, shared values, and family history. The combination of both tangible and intangible value defines the legacy of future generations and should align with your personal goals and wishes. To smoothly transition these values from one generation to the next, it’s important to begin estate planning.
Estate planning is not simply about what to do when you’re no longer alive, it’s also about what will happen if, and when, you are unable or unwilling to manage your own affairs. Having a family meeting that includes your advisors can make all the difference in your family’s future.
Setting up your children for a successful financial future will ensure intergenerational wealth continues to build beyond your legacy. It’s important to pass down healthy financial practices to your loved ones and just as crucial, if not more so, to facilitate transparent conversations so that they will be equipped to set up a plan when and if you become incapacitated.
In the event you are unable to manage your own affairs, it’s important that your Power of Attorney understands your wishes and goals. They should be familiar with your planning style and also the advisors you’ve chosen to help preserve your assets.
The family meeting should be more structured than sitting around a table and chatting. You are communicating financial information along with family values and what’s important to you. This should be a scheduled, structured event with a pre-determined agenda. Generally, individuals getting ready to have a family meeting will work with their financial advisor to develop the agenda and assist with the meeting.
5 Steps to a Successful Family Meeting
The family meeting is a tried-and-true method to getting your beneficiaries on the same page. Family meetings are an excellent way to make sure children and loved ones do not face unnecessary obstacles and added stress when figuring out what to do with an incapacitated or deceased family member’s finances. As hard as it is to talk about, it’s even worse when beneficiaries are left with the complicated and painful task of sorting through plans, assets, and wishes of a person who can no longer advocate for their desires.
Unfortunately, many families don’t think to have these difficult conversations until tragedy strikes. Getting ahead of the unavoidable will help your loved ones be better prepared for the future while bypassing added trauma.
STEP ONE: Create A List of Talking Points
Every organized meeting has an agenda, and this one should be no different. There will be a lot to cover, and it’ll be easy to get off track as the stories and conversation flow. Having a list of topics to pass out to everyone in the meeting will help keep the conversation on track and ensure that you cover everything necessary. Raymond James has an excellent list of conversation starters including, but not limited to:
- Intentions for Your Family Wealth
- Your Healthcare Wishes
- Estate and Legacy Planning
STEP TWO: Consider A Meeting Location
Depending on the size and geographic spread of your family, finding a good location to meet might be tricky. It’s best to get together in a private location that can comfortably fit everyone involved. We are happy to provide meeting space at our office and/or set up a secure virtual meeting—whether we participate or not.
While a digital meeting might be unavoidable, we recommend you try to have family members who are able to meet in person do so. Communication is always better when it’s face to face.
STEP THREE: Keep Lines of Communication Open
This one may seem obvious, but when having difficult conversations, it can sometimes be hard to stay open-minded. These family meetings should allow for everyone to transparently share their feelings so that there are no surprises further down the line.
Maintaining an environment where everyone is comfortable speaking their mind, will benefit the planning in the long run. Letting everyone have some input will encourage a sense of accountability and keep all parties engaged during these meetings and beyond.
STEP FOUR: Assign Roles
Identifying individual strengths, and capitalizing on these strengths, will help everyone perform to the best of their abilities. A skilled communicator can be put in charge of staying in touch with the family attorney, accountant, or trustee. These roles can change from meeting to meeting to make sure everyone feels involved and to avoid family members feeling unduly burdened.
Whether these meetings are about your charitable goals, plans to distribute significant wealth, or your wishes when passing down the family business, keeping everyone involved and engaged will help keep family members connected to your wishes and each other.
STEP FIVE: Invite Your Financial Advisor
Carver Financial Services conducts dozens of these types of meetings each year. We have a lot of experience in facilitating successful and productive family meetings. It can also be comforting for your heirs to put a face with a name and for us to meet those who will eventually take over your estate. Our firm has multiple generations of advisors so we will be here whenever the time comes to help mediate a family meeting.
When we attend your meetings, you don’t have to disclose the number of assets you own, we can simply go over how your wealth is structured so that your loved ones can better put together a plan for the future.
The beautiful thing about family meetings is they can be as uniquely structured as families themselves. We are happy to work with every type of situation and have plenty of experience aiding a diverse array of families. There is neither a cost nor any obligation to do a family meeting with us.
We’d be happy to set up an informal meeting to specifically discuss your overall goals, how your accounts are structured, and help open a line of communication with your beneficiaries. We can meet in a manner or location that is most convenient to you and your loved ones. The most important thing is to get the conversation going.
Randy Carver, CRPC®, CDFA®, is the president and founder of Carver Financial Services, Inc., and is also a registered principal with Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Randy has more than 32 years of experience in the financial services business. Carver Financial Services, Inc. was established in 1990 and is one of the largest independent financial services offices in the country, managing $2.2 billion in assets for clients globally, as of September 2021. Randy and his team, work with individuals who are in financial transition as a result of divorce, retirement, or the sale of a business. You may reach Randy at email@example.com.
Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.