Family Meetings -An Estate Planning Secret of The Affluent and Super Wealthy That Can Benefit Your Family Right Now

Do you want to protect and pass on a family business or investments and
other assets, family values, and the strategies that have allowed you to
build and protect your wealth?

Would you also like to protect those assets for a surviving spouse, your
heirs and beneficiaries
so that they are not lost to lawsuits, divorces or bad
relationships, and from taxation?

If any of these goals appeals to you, then doing a comprehensive estate
plan, including a will and/or trust, is the first and most essential step.

But, that is where many affluent families, blended families, family business
owners and investors stop. This often leaves heirs with a cold and legal plan
that seems complex, that they don't understand, and that they fail to maximize.

The secret that many affluent families have used throughout history is the
family meeting.

The family meeting can be as simple as a one or two hour session following
the execution of a will or more comprehensive estate plan, up to a half day
or full day session of education and training for spouses and family members.

What is covered in a family meeting?

These meetings often review the estate plan, trusts, who will act as trustees,
trust protectors and executors. The various jobs are described and some training
can be provided.

Family members and executors and trustees can also be introduced to other advisers,
and can be taught how to minimize taxes and fees, as well as how to protect
business interests and other assets from divorces and law suits.

Since affluent families often have complicated estate plans, the goals and purposes of those
plans can be reviewed and the underlying family values, business information and other
important factors can be taught and reviewed.
Sometimes, family meetings can be used to make sure that the next generation also
understands and creates estate planning for themselves.

Who runs a family meeting?

As a practicing attorney helping affluent families for many years, I have often facilitated
family meetings.

I also often work with the family to invite other advisers in the team of advisers and

I will also arrange for appraisers, succession planning advisers and other professionals to
be involved when particular long term strategies, family businesses, and/or extensive
real estate or life insurance is involved in the plan.

Who participates in family meetings?

There is no one answer. It does depend on what you want to accomplish. For example,
a family meeting designed to provide for the succession of one generation in a family
business might focus onthe members of the family directly involved in the change of
management and ownership.

A family meeting designed to teach the next generation how the estate plan will
work, how to minimize taxes and fees, and how to protect assets from creditors and
law suits might have all of the family members involved.

If some children or grandchildren are too young to benefit from certain information
at the family meeting, there might be multiple sessions for each age group.
College aged children or grandchildren might be educated in certain business and
investment strategies, while their parents are educated about the trusts being used to
protect assets from federal estate taxes or about their roles as executors, trust
protectors, or trustees.

How much does it cost to hold a family meeting?

Again, the costs can very very significantly. However, they often range from a few
thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

However, families that use the family meeting as an essential part of their estate
planning believe that these up front costs can pay massive dividends.


Let me give you an example. If one family dispute can be avoided by careful planning
and education, the family might save hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees
incurred in an unnecessary will contest.

If assets are maintained in a trust for a son or daughter who understands the strategy
and later gets divorced, they might have otherwise lost 50% or more of those assets.
In short, the family meeting can be as simple or complex as you desire. It can involve
as much or as little specific financial disclosure as you see fit.

However, once you have an effecticve estate plan in place, few techniques can
help to maximize the effectiveness of that plan and minimize costs and taxes
as well as the family meeting.

If a family meeting is so expensive, why don't families run
their own for free?

Well, some do.  However, the issues related to transfering fasmily wealth,
a family business, and/or other investments can be very complex.  In addition, most family
meetings are designed to make sure that the next generation undertsands varoius trusts
and estate planning tools, and how to get the most out of non family advisers at
the best possible rates.  

Family meeting are also often designed to flush out, and to deal with family problems, and
disputes in advance.  For that reason, having skilled advisers who know how to mediate and
resolve such problems is essential for many families and can save many times the costs
of having such a team present. 

If you want to know more about family meetings....
In the coming months, we will be hosting several webinars dedicated to helping
clients find the specific type of family meeting that is best for them.

So, if you:
have a family business

hold substantial investments

intent to protect a spouse and/or children from remarriage and/or
divorce claims

intend to sell a business and use liquidity to fund trusts for
family members

are doing or planning to do exit planning or succession planning

want to teach and preserve family values across multiple generations

have business, investment or life strategies that you want to
teach to future generations

have a blended family and want to protect against legal challenges
or family disputes

Then call 610-933-8069 and ask to be added to our registration list for our family
meeting webinars and programs.
If you're ready to create a customized family meeting either locally, or at a family
vacation destination, please call or email David Frees for more information.
David M. Frees, III
Connect with me
Attorney, Speaker and Author
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