Introducing family meetings


When properly conducted, family meetings are wonderful opportunities to bring multi-generational families closer together. By introducing clients to the benefits of family meetings — and offering conversation-starters and resources — you’ll be seen as a trusted family advisor, one who genuinely cares about the future well-being of the entire family: spouses, children and grandchildren. Advisors who look beyond the money when advising clients are more likely to retain the heirs (and their assets) in their practice after the wealth transfers.

The impact of wealth transfers on families & advisors

Family meetings with advisors have taken on a greater sense of urgency now that we’re in the midst of the greatest wealth transfer in history. Over the next several decades, trillions of dollars will transfer from spouse to spouse and from parents to children. Unfortunately, every estate doesn’t transfer well. Even the best investment and estate plans cannot shield a family (and its assets) from unresolved issues. Did you know 95% of wealth transfer failures1 are the result of:

  • Lack of trust and communication among family members
  • Failure of parents to prepare their heirs for their wealth
  • Lack of a family mission or purpose for the family wealth

Family meetings provide a forum for members to build trust, open channels of communications, share common values that help give purpose and meaning for the family wealth, practice joint decision making and prepare the heirs for their family roles – all key contributors to successful wealth transfer.

A successful wealth transfer for families occurs when heirs receive and manage assets in a manner to foster their development and lifetime goals.

A successful wealth transfer for advisors occurs when advisors build a relationship with the entire client family and retain the beneficiaries as clients.


Informal and formal meetings

Family meetings are not just casual get-togethers. They’re a time for encouraging conversation and hearing all voices – from the ones who created the wealth and those who will benefit from it.

Suggest the family begin with topics that encourage discussion and are non-controversial. Save the harder conversations for later meetings when the family is adept in open communication and shared decision making. Families may want to begin meeting informally, perhaps at dinnertime, with the conversations guided by a family leader. Informal family meetings require no written agenda. It is a time to update one another, welcome new family members, celebrate promotions and achievements, or discuss family giving grants or gifts. Meetings should not be overly lengthy. Although all family members should be encouraged to attend, since the primary objective is a discussion, attendance may be optional.

On the other hand, formal family meetings are for the express purpose of preparing the family for its future. Formal meetings are scheduled well in advance with a clear agenda and purpose, whether they’re for information only or decision-making or both. A family meeting may be called in preparation to sell a business, transition an estate or change in family leadership or family structure. Formal meetings may be held at the family home, but in general, a more neutral site is better – once the meeting is over, offering activities for the family to enjoy is a great way to get everyone together. Families often benefit from a third-party facilitator skilled in leading family meetings. This facilitator should provide guidelines for modeling excellent listening skills, encourage conversation and create an environment where all voices are heard.

Introducing the concept of family meetings

Schedule a few minutes at the next client meeting to engage them in a conversation about their entire family. Ask: “Does your family meet regularly to discuss important family topics?” Or, “Have you ever had a family meeting that addresses topics related to your family’s estate plans?”

Easy topics to get family meetings started

Encourage clients to start with straightforward, non-controversial conversations aimed at preparing the heirs for the responsibilities of wealth. Two such topics include:

  • Sharing the family’s legacy: Each family’s story is personal, relates to every member of the family, and serves as a guide for its future. Legacy conversations discuss how the wealth was created, who started the family business, any struggles the along way, lessons learned and the next generation’s attitude towards money. Topics can, of course, vary by family.
  • Discussing values through philanthropic conversations: The subject of charitable giving is a wonderful catalyst for civic-minded families to share the causes that are close to their hearts. Discuss a possible endeavor where the impact can be shared – such as a donation to a family cause or student scholarship. Through a formal family giving program, members can learn about leadership, financial education, gift impact assessment, negotiation, accountability and the importance of a focused mission.

Offer a copy of the book “Family Meetings” by Vic Preisser, a how-to guide for setting up and holding family meetings. (Available at

The family and your business

Deepening relationships with the entire family is one of the best ways to retain the heirs as clients and to ensure the longevity of your practice. As the family becomes more proficient at conversation, informal meetings will likely evolve into more formal meetings where the family will work with a specific task in mind. These meetings may be a half-day or weekend retreat with a clear agenda and goal. As the family’s lead advisor, suggest a plan that involves the family meeting its team of professionals: attorneys, CPAs, financial advisors and insurance providers. Create a plan to allow each professional a chance to share with members his or her role and what services each provides for the family. This meeting can be focus on the value of the relationships, not the cost of services. Another suggestion is to develop a financial education program tailored to the family and its individual needs.

Above all else, encourage clients to involve their family members in the estate planning process. Family meetings can create fun conversations that hold relationships together while preparing heirs for a successful transition of wealth.

1Roy Williams and Vic Preisser, Preparing Heirs: Five Steps to a Successful Transition of Family Wealth and Values. Robert D. Reed Publishers (2003), pp 161-174.

This information was prepared by an unrelated independent third party, Institute for Preparing Heirs, and is provided for informational purposes only. Ivy Funds Distributor, Inc., believes the information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.