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Keeping Trust Issues From Derailing The Family’s Future.

The patriarch, a 68-year-old first-generation wealth creator who grew up with modest means, built a global company he plans to sell when he can no longer operate the business. None of his four children—ages 22 to 30 (one married with a child)—work in the family business. Dad always felt the best way to avoid family conflict was to prevent kids from working in the company and sell it so there was no conflict when he was gone.

In this family, Dad holds all the control. He has yet to tell his children about the size of the estate or what may be coming their way. While Dad believes the family gets along well enough and is in great shape, he is concerned the children will overrule their mother and insist on changes to the estate plan that he had carefully crafted. He was growing increasingly concerned about the escalating conflicts between his children and spouse over issues that never used to be a problem.

The patriarch and his wife have strong religious beliefs. In our interviews with family members, we discovered that as adults, the children lied to their parents about attending church for fear of judgment if they didn’t go to church. To complicate matters, one son had a child out of wedlock that the grandparents refused to recognize as a part of the family. When the family gets together over the holidays, their level of conversation could best be described as cordial hypocrisy. In other words, the conversations were at a high level and lacked sincerity.

The patriarch had heard stories of families torn apart and legacies lost during wealth transitions. He wanted to take steps to avoid that happening in his own family. After five facilitated family meetings over 18 months, the family can now engage in challenging conversations with greater ease and willingness. They report higher levels of trust, acceptance, and confidence in working together as a team. Dad is more confident that the family has a shared purpose and intention for the family wealth and commitment to care for each other.

In their first meeting, they learned new skills for communicating with each other in more meaningful and sincere ways. Through facilitated conversations, they used those skills to work through important topics such as expectations of the next generation regarding stewardship, repairing relationships from “bumps in the road” they experienced in the past, and articulating their respective roles to support a smooth transition for themselves and the extended family.

Completing those meaningful conversations allowed the family relationships to settle into more substantial levels of trust and relationships. They then built their Family Wealth Mission statement based on their values. The Mission statement serves as a “North Star” for collective decision-making and guidance for the current and future generations.

Family Case Studies