Image of house and money with words how to hold a family legacy meeting.

How to Hold a Family Legacy Meeting

A family legacy meeting is not something you learn about in school. It’s not something you discuss at the office party or at your kid’s sporting event. But it is something that can benefit anyone, particularly if you have assets that you wish to create a legacy with.

Let’s use the good ol’ 5 W’s that you learned in Kindergarten.

Who?

Who should hold a family legacy meeting? Well, it’s my opinion that anyone who has children or assets of any kind (house, vehicles, pets, etc.) should not only have a will in place, but also ensure that a trusted family member or friend knows where it’s kept and has at least a brief idea of its contents. However, holding a formalized family legacy meeting is probably more important for those who have adult children. For example, in my 30s and my oldest children being 10, we are not conducting regular meetings, but plan to start in about 10 years when my oldest children reach adulthood.

Once you are ready to start holding family legacy meetings, who should attend? Anyone who you feel has an interest in your financial and estate plans. It’s hard to narrow this down because each family has such varying needs, but here’s a few ideas to get you started.

  • Adult children with or without their spouses (I have seen this executed successfully either way, it really depends on family dynamics and preference)
  • Any siblings or other family members who may be involved in helping to execute your will
  • Adult grandchildren, especially if you have a family business or farm that will be passed down the generations

Depending on your exact goals for this meeting and your level of assets, your guest list may be expanded or contracted. What is important is that you set the parameters for who you think needs to be present at the meeting and that you’ve thought about the reason why each of those people should be present.

Family having a meeting with animated hands.

What? 5 Topics To Talk About in a Family Legacy Meeting

I have found it helpful for family legacy meetings to have an agenda. It tends to help eliminate some of the awkward feelings that can sometimes arise and prevents dwelling too much on one topic or skipping something important. I’ve also found it helpful in most situations for the agenda to be distributed prior to the meeting, which allows attendees to request to add a topic.

Some topics may need to be talked about in generalizations. This doesn’t have to be a meeting where you pull out your bank statements and net worth statements for anyone to peruse at their leisure. The extent to which topics will be discussed is up to you. Generally (in all things in life) I advocate for transparency whenever possible, but sometimes the exact numbers can derail the conversation and steer it away from the meeting’s intended purpose. Use your best judgement and ask a trusted advisor for their opinion if you are unsure. Like going to a priest in the confessional, they have likely heard it all and your drama/family dynamics/net worth/etc. will not surprise them.

Here’s the 5 topics I tell people to use as a starting point. Some may apply more or less to you and your family, but it’s nice to have a few ideas to branch off from.

Goals

Always start with your goals, both financially and for your family/legacy. Think about how you view wealth. What is the purpose of your wealth? What do you want it to create for yourself, for future generations, or for others? Then think about how to communicate that. This is a great way to pass on values and traditions to your family, the single greatest benefit of regularly holding a family legacy meeting.

Here are two articles that I’ve featured recently in my newsletter that help you put into words what the purpose of your money is: Tim Mauer on Forbes: The Surprising Power of a Singular Priority in Money and Life, and Jacob Schroder on The Root of All: Four Things That Make Money Meaningful. And a few of my own blogs also provide some insight into helping see the purpose of your money and how to properly order it in your life.

Money and Assets

Here it’s a good idea to review your assets and investments with your family members. I highly recommend keeping a document that holds information on all your bank accounts, assets, and other investments in a secure place where family members can retrieve it after you pass.  As I stated above, this is not an audit with the IRS and numbers do not have to be exact and specific.  Attempt to communicate all the necessary information but avoid getting bogged down in the details.

Take this time to discuss what your plans for the monetary portion of your estate are after you pass. Although this can certainly be a touchy topic for some families, now is the time to share the why behind your decisions. Some topics, such as what to do with your primary residence after you pass, may not have a full decision made during the meeting, but any discussion on the topic with your input will be invaluable to your family later.

Business

If your family owns a business or family farm, here’s where you can discuss your succession plans. When your family is already involved in running the business, this portion of the meeting could be to clarify future roles and responsibilities, dive into business profits and projections, and even share your dreams about what the business may become. If there is no natural successor to the business, this will be a perfect opportunity to discuss your desire to sell the business and what that transition will look like for you and your family moving forward.

Family

Here’s a chance to address and resolve any ongoing family issues, intentionally pass on family values, and discuss further any philanthropic goals you may have. If you have a disabled child or family member that you care for, address your plans for them after you pass. Consider discussing the best communication methods for your family as it continues to grow and change in the future.

End of Life

Take some time to discuss your end-of-life plans, including things like long term care, medical directives, life insurance proceeds, and even your plans for funeral arrangements. Though it’s not fun to talk about, these kinds of discussions can be incredibly beneficial and once again, serve as a conduit to demonstrate your values to those who matter most.

This is a working agenda. Add or remove topics as you see necessary. It can be helpful to have someone designated to take meeting notes to help create the agenda for future meetings and as a way to have a more permanent record of your discussions.

Where?

Again, there is a wide range of possibilities here. Some things I’ve seen successfully work are

  • Rent out a restaurant party room and treat invited members to a nice meal prior to the meeting
  • Hold it around the kitchen table while the grandchildren have a special movie night
  • If you have a family business, your business conference room or office would certainly be appropriate

You can couple this meeting with a fun event, make it very formal, or as relaxed as you’d like. Do what feels natural to you and fits the culture you’ve created in your family.

A brief note on virtual legacy meetings. Some families are separated greatly by geographical constraints, so virtual meetings are a wonderful option when needed. This would typically work better once a first meeting has already been held in person and there are no topics of a sensitive nature to discuss; the first meeting and any sensitive meetings tend to be better received in person for most families.

Mother and son drinking coffee together while discussing family legacy.

When?

I strongly recommend an annual family legacy meeting, however, once again this may vary based on your situation. I’ve seen families successfully earmark 30 minutes after Christmas dinner each year for a legacy meeting. I’ve seen other families simply make it another family event on the calendar. The key thing here is to find what works for your family and stick to it.

Why?

If you’ve already read my previous blog on why you should hold an annual family legacy meeting, then our first W – Why? – is already answered. However, you may still be wondering why this legacy meeting can’t just be a few informal discussions here and there or simply mentioning once to your oldest child that you have an estate plan.  It comes down to getting everyone on the same page at the same time, which can only be done with a more formalized meeting. A 2021 Estate Planning Report from SeniorLiving.org found that only 46% of will executors were aware that the will existed. Additionally, their data showed that many wills were only found after the settlement process had already begun. A family legacy meeting not only ensures that this information is communicated, but it also guarantees that your wishes are communicated and it gives you the best possible chance of avoiding drama and family turmoil after you are gone.

Tips to Get Started on a Family Legacy Meeting

Often the biggest reason people don’t have a family legacy meeting is fear of the awkward. Though there is no way to completely avoid it, here are some tips to smooth out your meeting.

  1. Be clear and concise. Ambiguity, in my experience, only leads to more hurt feelings.
  2. Allow everyone to speak their mind and make sure that everyone gets on the same page, even if there is disagreement. Not everyone needs to agree with your decisions as the head of the family, but everyone should at least understand your reasoning.
  3. Just start. The first meeting will always be the most awkward, and after that each time it should feel a little more comfortable.

I can’t encourage you enough to push past the awkward and hold that first family legacy meeting.  It will be so worth it; I have no doubt that you will see fruit from it in the long run. Stay tuned…I will have a printable guide for your family legacy meeting available soon, including many things not covered in this blog, such as ways to prepare ahead of time for your legacy meeting, ways to encourage your parents or grandparents to have a meeting, and ways to start the conversation if you are ready to invite your own children.

This post is for education and entertainment purposes only. Nothing should be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice.

Scroll to Top