Financial planners do a good job of working with clients to develop an estate plan to effectively pass assets on to heirs. Minimizing taxes and making sure documents and beneficiary designations are done properly is important so family wealth can pass to the next generation. However, we all know family wealth is more than stocks and bonds and real estate. Every family contains a huge amount of wealth in their history, beliefs, and values.
Have you taken steps to ensure that your wealth is passed on to the next generation?
The art of talking and storytelling has been pushed out of the way in the modern day of television and our fast paced lives. It wasn’t too many generations ago that the family story was passed along as families would get together to listen as the grandparents shared stories from their youth. Life lessons were taught in these settings and personal values were shared. These stories served as teaching tools to illustrate life events that shaped their beliefs. These lessons will be lost forever when the oldest generation passes on, unless we take steps to save this valuable resource.
Plan Regular Family Meetings
An excellent way for families to communicate is through regular family meetings. The meeting doesn’t have to be held formally or on a set schedule. It can be scheduled to follow a family get-together. However it’s best if the first family meeting does not occur after the death of an important family member. The meeting can cover family business, such as estate-planning issues, but there should also be time scheduled to share family history and legacy goals. The meeting can provide an opportunity to develop relationships with open communication and transparency. This should not just be older members talking. It is also an opportunity for the older family members to seek input and learn what dreams and goals younger family members have. Family meetings are an effective way to begin discussions of what role it plays in its community.
Make sure all family members participate and provide input. In family meetings, everyone should get used to working together. Don’t let one person dominate the meeting. No one likes to feel like they’ve been lectured, especially by another member of their family. Create an atmosphere where your family feels their interests and opinions are respected by others.
At the conclusion of the meeting, be sure to schedule the next session. You’ll know if the first meeting was a success if people show up for the second meeting. It’s a good idea to have some consistency so the family can gain momentum as it works through issues together. In the beginning, several family meetings per year may be needed in order to get caught up and develop good communication habits. Over time, an annual family meeting might be enough. There should an agenda for the meetings to make sure some goals are accomplished, as well as time for deeper discussions.
Put Your Family’s Plan In Writing
Another way to share this information is by putting it in writing. This process is also known as writing an ethical will. The ethical will is a document designed to pass ethical values from one generation to the next. It is not a legal document and has nothing to do with distributing material wealth. It is more of a legacy letter where you share your values, life lessons, and hopes and dreams for the future.
Some issues you may consider writing about are:
- What were your life’s goals and did you achieve them?
- What were the most important lessons you learned from your parents? Grandparents?
- What does money and wealth mean to you?
- Who were the most influential people in your life and why?
Writing an ethical will can also be highly emotional and it may have to be set aside for a while before coming back to finish it. Think of it as a work in progress because you will probably want to come back and revise it from time to time.
Share Your Plan
The last step will be to decide who you want to share it with. Will you read it in a family meeting or keep in private to be read after you pass away? Be sure to keep it in a safe place and let your executor know it exists.
Your family history and life lessons are of great value. Be sure to share this resource with your family. You will find the process strengthens family ties and develops better communication.
- Every family contains a huge amount of wealth in their history, beliefs, and values.
- Family meetings can deepen relationships and provide a forum for sharing life lessons.
- Ethical wills are another way to share your values, hopes,and dreams for the future.