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Family Meetings, sound like a great idea, but where to start? I meet with clients who are worried about passing their children significant wealth. The concerns go from demotivating children toadvisor-peter-smith succeed on their own, how much should go to the kids vs. charity, what is the right age to let them get an understanding of what they may inherit, and will the children keep the family financial situation private.

44 percent of high net worth families have not told their children about their future inheritance according to a 2015 CNBC survey of high-net-worth families with investable assets of $1 million or more.  One of the reasons for the delay may be is where to start the conversation.  How do you have that first family meeting? How do you facilitate the conversation?

For each family this conversation is going to be different. However, the initial questions may be the same. My approach is to ask very broad questions in a non-threatening atmosphere. First, you need to layout some ground rules. That first meeting should not be rushed, find a time that works for everyone and forewarn everyone no one’s schedule is going to dictate the amount of time spent on the meeting. Establish some ground rules which should include that everyone’s ideas are to be respected especially during any brainstorming or conversation in the meetings. Talking about the ground rules should help to avoid past poor behavior of individual family members that may threaten others at these meetings. Addressing this upfront vs. on the fly will help move the meeting forward in a productive manner. This ground rule setting is important and may be all that is accomplished at the first meeting.

Some initial broad-based questions that can be asked after the ground rules are set are:

  • What does our family stand for?
  • What are our family values?
  • How does each family member feel about money?
  • How should money be used?

The answers to those questions will help formulate a family value statement that could look like this:


Utilize our Non-Financial Resources in a Responsible Manner

  • Service – to be of service to others within our Communities
    • Preparation – to be prepared for the service and work situations we are invited to participate in.
    • Follow-Up & Follow Through – to honor our commitments in the work place and our volunteer activities.
  • Honesty, Loyalty, Kindness, & Good Manners – in our dealings inside and outside of our family
  • Tolerant – to be open to other people’s values and ideas

Utilize our Financial Resources in Responsible Manner – to build them, to protect them (keep them private), and to utilize them for:

  • Education
  • Charity
  • Quality of Life
  • Others?

Family Communication – Open Communication – to be transparent with each other

Be Spiritual
From this outline, it is very easy to come up with a family mission statement that says, “Our family will be contributors to our community while ensuring the quality of life for our family through education along with personal and spiritual development.” Once this ground work is laid, it should be easy to communicate what the parent’s legacy wishes are, what the resources are, where they are located, and how the children should execute the legacy. The alternative is a sudden death that leaves the children without a road map.  Depending on your documents, your children may not have any guidelines on how to manage your legacy. Why leave them stranded?
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As a Financial Planner, Peter brings three decades of consumer product industry experience and a high level of customer service to the financial services business. After a successful 25 year sales career at Blistex, Inc., he was employed at Morgan Stanley as a Registered Marketing Associate and Financial Advisor from 2010 to 2013. Peter believes in diversified portfolio management to meet college savings goals, retirement lifestyle objectives, charitable giving goals, and estate planning objectives.

Peter is involved in his local community in Annapolis, MD. He has served on the Vestry and chaired six Stewardship Campaigns at St. Anne’s Church. He currently supports St. Anne’s as the Planned Giving Committee Chairman. He has been active in local Boy Scout units and also serves on the Board of the Trustees for the Chase Home in Historic Annapolis on the Endowment Committee.

Peter and his wife Molly live in Annapolis, MD and are “empty nesters”. Their son, Hunter, graduated from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA and their youngest son, McLean graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, TN.  To email Pete: