Good Example: The Value of Family Meetings in Transferring Wealth to the Next Generations

August 8, 2006 12:26 pm Published by

In this month’s (August 2006) edition of Worth magazine, there are a number of articles which deal with the challenge of successfully transferring wealth to the succeeding generations. This is an area which I focus upon professionally — helping financially successful families figure out “how much” to leave to their heirs, and how to do so in a healthy way.

One article, entitled “Overcoming Entropy” by Stuart Lewis (who is a fourth generation heir of the Carnation food company), summarizes the process their family has gone through over the past few years. Almost sounding like a “poster child” for multi-generational family meetings, he states:

“We have an annual family business meeting that includes all adult family members, including spouses. . . we have a series of regular written communications; we use the phone and emails. . . In addition, by listening carefully to each individual, we have designed a system that is flexible enough to accommodate and encourage family members to pursue their own passions.”

But what is really exciting is to get the sense that their family goes beyond the “duty” of meeting together and have found the joy of being family, as Mr. Lewis continues:

“But the fun that we have together really is the secret to making this all work. Even though we are spread across the country, and many of us have young families of our own, all of us go out of our way to spend quality time with each other. At the end of the day, the personal bonds among us really define family.”

Finally, he addresses the challenges that all extended family face today:

“There are so many things in life that pull families apart — geographic separation, time commitments to career and nuclear families, marriage and divorce, unresolved conflicts hat can go back to childhood, a me-oriented culture. The list goes on and on. Do you want to push back against these forces? Do you want to define family as a high priority, especially because it can have psychic as well as financial rewards? . . . We are doing so because we want to — because it is good business, because we like each other and because it is fun, not because we have to or feel compelled to through some sense of nostalgia.” (Worth, p. 50, August 2006.)

It has been my experience that many families have to start out meeting together because they “have to” — it’s being foisted upon them by some part of the family — but, when they do meet together and become personally engaged in the process, they enjoy getting together and look forward to the next family gathering.

[Mr. Lewis’, and his family’s story, is further described in his new book, Wealth: Grow It, Protect It, Spend It, and Share It.]


Published by
August 8, 2006 12:26 pm

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