How to Plan an Effective Family Meeting
Keeping alive financial legacies for future generations is top-of-mind for wealthy families. Research shows that—despite having good wealth transfer plans—70% of a family’s wealth is depleted by the second generation and 90% by the third. The main reason for this loss of wealth? A breakdown in trust and communication. Strong, consistent communication is critical for retaining generational wealth.
A family meeting is one of the most effective ways to facilitate communication and provide the right tools for individuals to succeed as stewards of family wealth beyond their own generation. All too often individuals do not understand their relationship to their family’s wealth, never reading or fully comprehending the legal documents that detail their roles, responsibilities, and benefits. Even more rarely are they included in the broader discussions about the strategies, goals, and purposes that will guide their family’s wealth into the future. Often, this leaves individuals unprepared for managing inherited wealth.
How to Plan a Family Meeting
Determine Attendees: In most cases, the family meeting will involve you, your spouse or partner, and your children. Some families might also include grandchildren, children’s spouses or partners, or stepchildren. Be sure to include anyone essential to creating a succession plan for your wealth, particularly those assigned specific responsibilities.
Set an Agenda: Setting a clear agenda is critical for hosting an efficient meeting. Be sure to ask attendees for their questions and concerns. An effective agenda:
- is created collaboratively with all participants
- reflects topics of interest to all participants
- is concise
- eliminates any surprises
Distribute the agenda early enough to give attendees ample time to prepare.
Find a Location: Determine where to hold the meeting. The location should help everyone feel comfortable and free to talk openly, so select a place that is neutral, yet also private. Make sure you have easy and reliable access to technological tools, such as high-speed internet and video conferencing.
Determine Meeting Ground Rules: The goal of the family meeting is to discuss important issues and make necessary decisions in a fair and equitable manner. So, consider carefully who will lead the meeting, how information will be presented, and how decisions will be made. Many benefit from the presence of an experienced facilitator—a professional who understands your situation and has practice leading productive and open discussions. This can be especially beneficial for families, who often have long-held patterns of communication and who may be facing sensitive issues.
Agree on Next Steps: Before your meeting concludes, create a timeline for reviewing progress and following up. Questions might arise during your meeting that require additional research or consideration. Make sure that any items that require follow up have specific parameters, timelines, and outcomes. If possible, empower family members by assigning them specific tasks to complete after the meeting. While the meeting itself is important, the actions that participants take afterward will determine your family’s long-term success.
The prospect of a family meeting can feel intimidating, overwhelming, or perhaps even unnecessary. But many families find it a transformative event that creates clarity and increases their sense of a shared purpose. Some families benefit from a relatively brief and informal sit down, whereas others may need more time and structure. No matter the family or subject, we are here to help you lay the foundation for your family’s success and harmony long into the future.