Who Has a Voice & Vote at Family Meetings? — Susan Schoenfeld

Susan R. Schoenfeld, CEO, and Founder of Wealth Legacy Advisors LLC serves as a ‘thought partner’ to families of wealth through personal attention and the human spirit. Susan is an award-winning Thought Leader; she provides guidance on legacy, next-generation, stewardship, governance, leadership succession, and philanthropy. Susan spoke at Opal Group’s Governance and the Single-Family Office Panel at the Virtual Family Office and Private Wealth Forum.

“The WHO of family governance, family decision making, and family meetings is a critical piece because you want to make sure that you have multi-directional communication at family meetings. This means that you want to respect the wishes of the matriarch and patriarch, but you also need to involve and engage all the family members.

“Adult children generally get a seat at the table, but what about their spouses? Families differ on that. Many families I work with say that the in-laws are like ‘out-laws’ and they don’t want them to have a seat at the meeting table. I try to remind them that your children’s spouses are also the parents of your grandchildren. If they are not involved in developing your family’s mission, vision and values, then your grandchildren will not be receiving a consistent story of what your family stands for. I encourage families to involve the in-laws in family discussions because they are the ones who will be teaching your grandchildren all about your family.

“To that end, at what age the grandchildren should have a seat at the meeting table should be discussed. It may be before they have a right to be decision-makers. But involving and encouraging them to listen, learn and voice their opinion is a critical first step.

“Families might also think about an education program for incoming members of the family, whether rising grandchildren or a spouse marrying in who may come from a different wealth environment. Develop a curriculum to teach these incoming family members what it means to be part of your family.”

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Susan Schoenfeld, a public speaker & thought partner to families of wealth and their advisors, is an author and award-winning thought leader. Susan’s decision to switch from being a successful estate planning attorney and CPA to become a trusted family advisor and thought partner was inspired by families of wealth asking her searching questions beyond estate tax planning. As a conflict-free advisor who provides no investment, tax, or legal advice and sells no product, Susan shares her insights directly with wealthy families and with financial services experts. She is active as a keynote speaker and a leader of break-out sessions and workshops at conferences throughout the US.

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