Families often make a common and critical mistake when determining their family values.
Let’s look at how families typically think about “Family Values”.
Concerns about transitioning family wealth have traditionally revolved around two core topics, Disposition and Timing: “What will be done with the wealth?” and “When will the heirs come to control the wealth?”
In recent decades, we have seen the emergence of what has come to be known as “Values-Based Estate Planning”, which seeks to ensure that when the wealth is transferred, the heirs manage their inheritance in accordance with a set of values, which will prevent them from squandering the family’s fortune.
This process typically consists of conversations with the patriarch and matriarch, to determine a set of principles and standards, which are then integrated into Estate documents, in order to ensure their heirs act in a “right and proper” manner in relation to their inheritance.
Unfortunately, this process frequently breaks down and leads to conflict.
Why? The process of Values-Based Estate Planning leads to heirs feeling trapped by a structured framework, upon which they were never consulted. It accounts for the large numbers of heirs who seek to break the shackles of their trustee relationships through litigious means.
A 21st century approach to Estate Planning begins by creating a compact across generations, whereby the whole family organises themselves around a shared long-term goal. In families, unlike in business, “long term” equates to at least three to four generations or 100 years. The family will agree on how they wish to reach decisions together as the family grows in size. They will consider whether wealth transitions per stirpes or per capita. Most importantly, however, once the family have agreed on their shared long-term goal across the generations, they will agree on a common set of values which they all subscribe to and which binds them together.
This process enables a family to resolve underlying issues and tensions, which might cause conflict at a later date. More importantly, our approach is specifically designed to create real affinity between family members across generations.
When family values are defined in this context, they establish a framework of common understanding and co-operation which can last for generations.
For a detailed description of this process, please see: Family Legacy.