The Family Meeting

All of us, as financial advisors but also as human beings, have witnessed families falling apart due to disagreements around estate planning decisions. Families falling apart as a result of gaps in communication and flaws in the estate planning process. And yet, that is the main issue we want to solve with estate planning; set clear expectations and make sure the family stays together after the mum and dad leave. 

The first thing you want to do is make a clear statement that once the estate planning is funded, the goal of the family meeting is not to be a negotiation session but rather an information-sharing session on what everyone will get.

What we always do at the family meetings is present the Estate Planning Flow Chart. Make sure you show the chart without the dollar amounts because that is a variable. Your goal during the meeting is for all the parties to understand who gets what and how much. 

Another advantage of the family meeting is the opportunity for the kids to ask their questions. Very often, we meet heirs who have lots of questions but haven’t felt confident enough to ask them because they do not want others to consider them greedy. The family meeting is an excellent opportunity for everyone involved to raise all of the discussions they were thinking about

Still, this should not be an endless gathering. We, as financial advisors have the responsibility to control the meeting and make sure that we keep its most constructive length; that is 45 minutes max to an hour

The last thing; do a follow-up. Write or record a brief summary and do a follow-up with all of the involved parties. Summarize the meeting and make sure you put an accent on the decisions. Keep in mind the main goal of keeping family unity

Complete this chapter by listening to a couple of different scenarios and the slight differences in approach that you, as a financial advisor, should have, especially in situations when you have siblings that have made poor life decisions or blended families.

Action Items:

  1. Regardless of your level of professional experience, you have to come up with a one-page document to present to the family. Get our Estate Planning Flow Chart and start using it today. 
  2. Include the Family Meeting as a part of your Estate Planning Process. Family meetings are a critical part of Estate Planning.