How a Family Office Can Uncover Goals With a Family Meeting

In this Forbes article, Olson Wealth Group President Sharon Olson, CFP®, CEPA shares her perspective on how a formal family meeting can provide a cohesive opportunity for family to discuss their goals and continue to promote family unity, harmony, and happiness among future generations.

Over time, family offices have evolved from something more than money management, into something much broader with a goal of creating continuity, cohesion, and engagement across families for generations. While much is put into how to grow wealth, such as embodying qualities of having a sound work ethic, determination, grit, and a clear vision, just as important to the financial well-being of a family is the conversation about how to manage the responsibility of wealth.

A family office plays a unique role in stewarding family wealth by managing and implementing appropriate financial and investment strategies and helping its respective family define its purpose and promote family unity, harmony and happiness among future generations. Facilitating conversations about wealth transfer and preparing subsequent generations may be achieved through ongoing family meetings.

A family meeting is intended to create a cohesive opportunity to discuss a family’s important and fundamental qualities. Topics may include educational goals, charitable interests, setting accountability standards for personal achievements and other important topics. From a financial perspective, a family meeting provides a platform for discussion around the family’s intentions for future generations, while older family members are still active and can participate in identifying how they would like to see their legacy carried on. Facilitating candid conversations among family members allows an opportunity to create a family mission statement that clarifies and directs desired outcomes. By establishing the principles upon which the family wishes to operate, the family creates the basis from which everything else can evolve.

Aside from defining the family’s mission and establishing principles upon which the family wishes to operate, a family meeting serves as a place to create well-defined policies around investment, philanthropy, succession and estate planning ideals. Such ideals include the accepted personal values and principles about how the family defines work ethic, purpose and expectations from future generations. Conversely, the family meeting is an opportunity for future generations, for which wealth is assumed, to create their own identity by defining their own unique initiative. Since so much of self-confidence is tied to a sense of accomplishment, creating an opportunity for inheritors to explore their own path to success to ensure self-efficacy and feelings of personal worthiness is paramount.

A family meeting also provides an opportunity to discuss estate planning intentions and details. All too often, families do not explain how an estate will be administered, and surviving members are tasked with the tedious job of uncovering their parents’ wishes after the fact. This time also serves as a great opportunity to make introductions to the family’s advisors such as their attorneys, accountants, and wealth advisors.

Logistically, family meetings should be ongoing occurrences, and new members should be added to the meeting as they meet age parameters. While family meetings are often directed by the matriarch and patriarch of the family, getting input from the entire family to ensure buy-in and inclusivity is crucial. What is most important is that all family members feel as though they are able to participate and ask questions, as well as give their own input. A family meeting where everyone feels included results in meaningful discussions and outcomes.

Creating a dialogue around wealth creation and transfer and how the family can operate with a cohesive mission can provide the clarity and direction that so many families served by family offices need. By facilitating this meeting, the family office provides the leadership to the family in helping multi-generations understand familial affairs, thus providing the clarity and direction that multi-generational-wealth families deserve.

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