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Helping Clients Have Family Meetings

Huntsville, AL – Two years ago the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville created the Philanthropic Advisors Network (PAN) in order to grow generosity in our region by inspiring and supporting professional advisors to help clients create charitable giving plans that strengthen their families and communities.  PAN members are advisors who are interested in expanding their ability to help clients fulfill their philanthropic wishes.  At November 2017 PAN meeting, Patti B. Black, CFP®, Partner at Bridgeworth, LLC, offered practical suggestions about organizing family meetings.  

Why should advisors support a family meeting? 

In the next thirty years there will be the greatest wealth transfer in history from the Baby Boomers to the Generation Xers and the Millennials.  Obviously, advisors want to be part of this process.  Also, advisors can be a great asset in helping clients with these important conversations that they are not having on their own.

Why don’t advisors help clients with family meetings? 

Having a family meeting with clients can be a little intimidating.  Some advisors may feel they have a lack of skills or experience for talking about these personal topics.  Others may worry that a client might misunderstand their intentions.  Of course, having a family meeting might not be recommended when estate plans treat children differently, there is a domineering child, or there is a lot of family drama.

In preparation for a family meeting, create an agenda that addresses the four W’s.

• Why have a family meeting?
• Who should be included?  Should in-laws be included?  Other trusted advisors, such as CPAs, estate lawyers, etc.?
• What information should be shared?
• Where should the meeting take place – in a casual or formal environment?
As an advisor, you’ll need to meet your clients where they are.  Are they just beginning the process of communicating with their family or have they reached a level where they are engaging in deeper dialogue?  

Three sample agendas for family meetings:

101 Basic Family Meeting Agenda
• Start with why
• Who are key players?
• Estate flowchart
• Important documents – what are they and where are they
• Re-state goal
201 Intermediate Family Meeting Agenda
• 5 Wishes – a plan for personal and spiritual wishes
• Long-term care plans
• Funeral plans
• Personal property plans
Graduate Advanced Level Family Meeting Agenda
• What was most important to your Great Grandmother?
• How do you define success? At work? In your family?
• How do you hope to be remembered?
• What charities do you support? Why?
If you are interested in joining the Philanthropic Advisors Network (PAN) or in learning how to make philanthropy part of your conversations with your clients, please contact Stuart Obermann at or 256-535-2066.