How A Family Planning Session Can Help Preserve Generational Wealth

Groups and teams are more successful when everyone is on the same page, and each individual is aware of the plan and their role in it. This idea applies to your family finances, especially with multiple generations.

A sit-down meeting with your whole family to talk specifically about financial planning, goals, and actions could set you up for generations of success.

Before the Meeting: Your Prep Work

You will need to do a little homework to ensure that the meeting is as productive as possible.

Before bringing all your family members together for a meaningful, in-depth discussion, ensure you have the necessary materials. At a minimum, this includes:

  • Annual income
  • Annual expenses
  • All assets
  • Net worth

Depending on your family dynamic, you could spearhead the idea of a family meeting and gather the required materials, or you may want help from others. You want to ensure all the relevant information is available because it’s the basis of your discussion.

When your family meets, everyone should know two critical things:

  • What you plan to discuss
  • Next steps and action items following the meeting

If possible, let everyone know ahead of time what the meeting will be about and what will be expected of them. Zoom can be an excellent and informal way to have this “pre-meeting,” so everyone is on the same page and walks into the room with the right mindset. They may be more engaged throughout and ready to participate with that extra time to prepare.

During the Meeting: Your Agenda

Open the meeting by going around the room and asking each person to talk about something good that's happened for the family (financially or not) in the past year. Doing so gets everyone “activated” and sets a positive tone.

Then, review the family’s financial information (the income, expenses, and net worth you looked up). Either you’ll present that information to the family, or you may want to have each person explain their piece.

Pro Tip: Don’t rush through this part. Everyone needs to know what the family's starting point is. If there are areas that need to be discussed further, take the time to do it!

Next, brainstorm your goals. Again, get the entire family’s input and try not to let one person overpower everyone else. Remember, the goal is to get everyone on the same page. You don’t want any family member leaving feeling like they were pressured or unheard.

A good rule of thumb is to start with the short-term financials and expand from there to medium-term through long-term. Ideally, your professional team will be present and participate in this meeting as well, and they can be beneficial at this point. Issues will likely come up, like an inheritance, selling the family businesses, beneficiaries, philanthropy efforts, etc. Their guidance can be invaluable and help keep the conversation flowing in the right direction.

Make sure to talk through your charitable goals as well.

  • What philanthropic endeavors does the family want to dive into together?
  • How will your family’s goals and value system inform your charitable efforts moving forward?
  • In what ways can each family member contribute their skills and passions to the giving efforts?

Philanthropy is an excellent bonding activity that brings families closer together. Younger generations often have a sense of pride in their family’s philanthropic tradition, so it’s one way to leave a family legacy.

Don’t forget to talk through beneficiaries, executors, and other estate planning topics. This meeting should get everyone on the same page for all the following steps and future decisions, including things that will impact younger family members after you are gone.

Once you've narrowed down your goals, list the next steps to achieve each of them and assign a name to each. Your estate planning team’s guidance is critical here to ensure everyone understands their role if they are asked to be an executor or trustee, for example. You’ll want to determine those responsibilities now so that the details don’t fall through the cracks. Being proactive will also avoid confusion when issues arise.

After the Meeting: Your Family’s Continued Success

Before you walk out of the room, document the discussion and conclusions of the meeting. Memories fade, and people forget. Chronicling the event in writing helps keep everyone accountable and push toward the same goals.

Afterward, it’s a good idea to go to each family member individually in a private conversation and ask them if they understand and are comfortable with the meeting outcome. That’s particularly important if they have been assigned a role or given a specific responsibility. Ask them if they are comfortable with it and be prepared to follow up if the answer is no. Even if they are comfortable, it’s always prudent to name a backup person for each significant role.

Please reach out to the Wealth & Trust Department at First Dakota National Bank to assist you in reaching your estate planning goals—we are more than happy to help!


First Dakota Wealth & Trust is the fiduciary investment department of First Dakota National Bank with trustee powers to serve clients during their lifetime, during incapacity, and after death. We help clients develop a financial roadmap to help simplify their financial future.

Please note that neither First Dakota National Bank nor First Dakota Wealth & Trust Department, or its employees provide tax or legal advice. This is intended for informational purposes and is not intended to constitute legal or tax advice. Please consult your attorney and/or tax professional for advice related to your specific situation.