Why We Have Official Family Meetings

After Mom died in 1996, Hubby and I had to deal with her estate. It was then that we started establishing our own wills, trusts and etc.

Family Meeting tableIn the years following 9/11, I realized that life is so fragile – it really sank in that we could die suddenly, at any time. The boys had grown up by then and had moved out, but I started thinking about what would happen to them if we did die suddenly and together. That is when I started sharing information about our finances and estate plans with them.

Sharing Information

It was harder to stay connected with them and their families, they were young adults, wanting and needing independence from their crotchety old parents, so how was I to share this information with grown sons and their wives and fiancees (whom I barely knew)?

First, I just made up a list of where we keep our important documents. I update this list each year at the end of the year. They each get a copy and a copy goes in the safe deposit box.

Next, I started keeping an inventory. We like our stuff pretty much and a lot of it was handed down from prior generations. I know that special stuff can just be tossed if no history is known by survivors – so I started writing down what we have, where it came from, why it is special and how much I think it is worth – in hopes that they may keep some of it for their sons and daughters or at least get good money for it.

Then I started thinking about finances. Because we wanted to have a conversation with our sons and their significant others about what our financial goals and hopes have been, I started thinking about how to approach the conversation.

Life Changing Read
I discovered a book, Strategy for the Wealthy Family: Seven Principles to Assure Riches to Riches Across Generations which shared information about how the super-rich deal with generational issues involved with passing assets. It talked about training the next generation – not just dumping assets on them – but making sure they knew how to manage the assets, having a common set of values with them, and helping them understand what our goals are for the money.

It was a life changing read for me. I imagined future generations of my family reading their family history and discovering that Hubby and I had put a structure and process in place to assure that each generation of our family had the values, assets and training needed to be successful in doing what that generation thought needed to be done. This book described how the rich families had family offices and held official family meetings down through the 4th and 5th generations.

But, in order to use that information and start the conversation – what to do? I liked the idea of having a family meeting so I started talking to the kids, their family’s and Hubby about why I wanted a meeting, what it would entail and how we could try it out.

Then in 2007, we did try it. We met as a family (3 generations). We did some things wrong, but we are still meeting each year so I am counting it as a victory. I blogged about that first meeting  if you want to read more about it.

So Why Do We Meet?

  • To put aside generational roles and talk as equals
  • To catch up on each others lives on topics we might not normally discuss
  • To specifically think about values, goals and future generations
  • To talk about opportunities with which we can help each other
  • To remember resources we can share
  • To train each other on topics with which we have expertise and
  • To share information with our next gen about our estate and our estate planning.

If you have grown kids, how do you stay connected with them and continue to help each other out?

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