Consider these strategies to help make family meetings an effective tool in wealth transfer planning.
There’s a wide diversity of family types and sizes that exist in Canada, including two-parent, single-parent, blended and multi-generational, to name a few. Beyond these more structural classifications, you and your family will have your own unique circumstances, dynamics, values and beliefs that contribute to your planning goals and needs. All combined, depending on your particular situation, these aspects may also play a significant role in how you approach the topic of wealth transfer.
According to the RBC Wealth Management (WM) 2017 Wealth Transfer Report, when it comes to communication across generations, the majority of Canadians are overlooking the importance of family dialogue as part of a wealth transfer plan. In fact, among respondents, 60 percent noted they aren’t comfortable sharing details of their wealth transfer plans with their intended beneficiaries and a further 13 percent were not open to sharing any of this information at all. In cases like these, where there’s limited or no proactive communication, the risk for misunderstanding and a lack of clarity increases, which can lead to a range of potential issues for family members during wealth transfer.
Understandably, everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to discussing estate and Will plans with family members, but there is also a wide range of communication strategies that can be used. Whether you lean more towards keeping discussions broad or whether you prefer to disclose more details of your plans, an effective approach to consider is holding a regular family meeting.
The following are some main considerations for establishing, carrying out and maintaining productive family meetings.
In preparing for an initial family meeting or before you begin wealth transfer conversations, start by working through some of the details of your current plans. This should include your main estate and Will planning decisions and documents, healthcare and senior care wishes and considerations, any intentions for providing gifts during your lifetime or in your Will, and any charitable giving preferences.
Note: During this initial preparation, you may want to speak with your qualified estate planning professional to perhaps confirm the rationale behind various decisions and, if necessary, update your documents prior to the meeting.
Clearly identifying and documenting your intentions in advance can help in generating discussion points and developing meeting structure. Again here, remember that the level of disclosure is up to you. (For example, some families like to discuss wealth in general terms without disclosing dollar amounts.)
Next, think about your own family dynamics, circumstances and relationships.
In establishing an overall set-up, walk through the following considerations. This may be a great opportunity to involve family members and map out the meetings together, which may help encourage an open and inclusive forum for conversations.
When introducing and establishing these meetings within your family, keep in mind that it can often be an evolving process, and getting into a flow and routine may take time. At the end of the day, beyond mapping out wishes and intentions and putting the right plans in place, it’s about focusing on the value and peace of mind these meetings can offer you and your family in tying everything together.
For those who own a family business or who are part of a family business, there can be many additional questions to ask and considerations to address as part of business succession planning. Even if succession isn’t on the horizon, getting into the routine of family meetings now may be beneficial for laying the groundwork and to establish a forum for discussions and planning through the various stages of your business.
The following has been partially excerpted from RBC Wealth Management’s Succeeding in succession: A guide to keeping family harmony through your business transition.
From an approach perspective, same as with families in a non-business setting, family meetings will be more effective when properly planned with agendas tailored to your family’s circumstances. As you’re building meeting agendas, you can use the following list as a guide for topics and items you may want to include.
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