Where should you meet? What should you discuss? Who should be there? Consider these suggestions.
Estate planning is more than just sharing wealth – it also includes the passing down of your family’s values and history to the next generation. And while selecting the right financial strategies is crucial to ensure your family’s long-term well-being, it’s just as important to prepare your loved ones for the responsibilities of managing the wealth they’re set to inherit.
One of the best ways to start this preparation is by hosting a family meeting to have an open conversation about your family’s unique situation, needs and goals. Here’s a guide to get you started.
If you and your loved ones live near each other, picking the time and place for your family meeting may be as straightforward as inviting them over for an extended dinner. However, if everyone is spread out, finding a time to get together may take more planning. Do you have a family reunion coming up? Consider tacking on a day to your vacation to talk about the future and your wishes.
When choosing your meeting location, think about where everyone will feel most comfortable. Perhaps it’s somewhere familiar like your home or a more formal setting like your financial advisor’s office. Maybe you’d prefer someplace completely neutral like a hotel or an intimate restaurant or coffee shop.
This may depend on what you plan to discuss. Very personal matters may need to be addressed with immediate family first. Eventually, you may want to invite in-laws and grandchildren into the conversation; then include your professional advisors to help you take action on follow-up items. Sensitive subjects should be broached carefully in order to build consensus among decision makers.
As you invite the relevant players to the table, consider what role they’ll play. Is one more financially savvy, one the family historian, one more responsible than others? You may want to assign a different person to communicate with the family attorney, accountant or trustee; to update your financial advisor; to spearhead the family’s philanthropic endeavors; and to serve as the family educator. Capitalize on each person’s skill set to keep the lines of communication open, lend a sense of accountability and keep everyone engaged during the meetings. You can always switch up the roles in subsequent get-togethers so no one feels unduly burdened or left out. Consider assigning a family secretary to keep track of action items and to document what decisions were made.
There’s a wide range of topics you may wish to cover with your family. Some may be harder to talk about than others, but that just means they’re that much more important. Here are a few ideas to get the conversation flowing:
Like the other aspects of planning a family meeting, this depends on your family’s unique situation. You may find you need one or two longer meetings to get going, followed by shorter gatherings held semiannually or annually. Or perhaps you’d prefer casual but regular meetings held monthly or bimonthly. After your initial conversation, you may be better able to gauge what will work best for you and your loved ones.