Family Meetings – How Can They Help Your Family?
SBK Planning Series:
By Tom Doyle
Family meetings have become a critical element to the success of families wanting to preserve their traditions, values and perpetuate a lasting legacy. Productive, structured meetings are sometimes thought to be financial only in nature. But, incorporating education and stories into meetings can be invaluable as you bring everyone together.
Your family has a wonderful opportunity to create a shared vision by which multiple generations can prosper. At SBK, we encourage, and in some cases, facilitate, structured multi-generational conversations.
What Does a Family Meeting Look Like?
These types of meetings can start smaller in scope: a family debating selling a vacation home versus keeping it in the family; or a matriarch wanting to discuss her desire to fund her grandchildren’s education.
Other family meetings communicate broader visions over time. We recently helped a patriarch share his charitable wealth transfer plans with his descendants. While we were asked to facilitate that specific discussion, the groundwork for a productive outcome had been laid over many years. Meeting agendas with this family always included charitable giving as its own separate topic. Stories of past generations’ philanthropic values were commonly shared and new family members were educated about this important history.
Another family’s long-term goal is bringing about a comprehensive understanding of existing family entities. Family members want to know what the trusts, partnerships, LLCs and other assets are and more importantly, how do those entities work together? What are the governing documents? Who are the trustees, partners, decision makers, and what happens if they are not able to act? Family meetings have been focused on education and teaching each other about these entities, discussing both the financial aspects and the group’s long-term goals. This family actively discusses succession planning and has identified members of the next generation to step into vital stakeholder roles.
We cannot overstate the significance of how a shared family vision can lead to long-term success. The examples mentioned above are germane to those particular families, but whatever your situation may be, a common key to success is communication.
Once you decide to get started, think about committing to the following guidelines:
- A Willingness to Share – Every family has a story to share amongst themselves. Not only should they focus on and share successes, but also point out the struggles; how those were managed through, and lessons gleaned along the way. Family leaders can then introduce broad information about current structure of assets, estate plans, etc. with a goal to be more detailed in future meetings.
- Advanced Preparation – A well thought out agenda is important. To ensure that time spent together is productive and meaningful, family members should think through what is to be accomplished in advance: sending out necessary materials ahead of time; ascertaining what attendees might view as the most pressing topics; and anticipating how best to deal with potential conflicts.
- A Willingness to Learn – These forums are excellent for learning and an educational component to every meeting is recommended. When we have been called upon to participate in family meetings, our role involves setting context for certain topics and helping clients deepen their financial knowledge. Family members can and should also take on teaching roles targeting specific topics. Education and training creates structure and helps prepare the next generation.
- Continuity – As well thought out, agenda-based, family meetings continue, participants tend to become more active and engaged. Individual family members tend to take on various leadership roles, share responsibilities and are better prepared to handle future challenges and opportunities.
- Guiding Principles – Etiquette, courtesy, active listening, etc. Gatherings must be conducted with common theme of respect for everyone present. Conflicts may arise and a set of standards for resolution begins with good communication.
Every family is unique and we have seen first-hand how efforts to create a collaborative understanding through family meetings can be transformational. To learn more about the different ways we serve families, please visit our website at www.sbkfinancial.com.
SBK is a wealth advisory partner offering holistic, independent and objective wealth management services. Our customized and comprehensive approach enables us to generate tailored solutions for you and your family – every step of the way.