The Family Wealth Counseling Process

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“So how do you actually help people with this stuff?”  I’ve received quite a few of these types of questions recently.  While it’s nice to get the questions, the fact that they exist probably means I haven’t done a good enough job of laying out how people can pursue solutions for the issues and challenges referenced on this site and in my presentations.  So I want to at least provide a general overview of the process I use.  So here’s the short version:

Phase 1 – Identify and Capture
As with any advisory engagement, the first phase is to figure out the lay of the land. Using a personalized, in-depth discovery process, a family’s unique challenges, values and opportunities are identified.  This all starts with those best positioned to influence the family’s success or failure in managing its wealth and personal capacity well.  This is usually accomplished at the client(s)’ residence in a half to full day, in-home retreat.

Phase 2 – Expand, Adjust and Unify
Families succeed (or fail) across generations. Consequently, to ensure successful management of family wealth and values there has to be meaningful participation of stakeholders beyond the “senior generation.”  This phase is in part discovery and in part the facilitation of conversation between generations.  The net result is not that the “next gens” fall in line with the senior generation, but that together we identify points of commonality within the family that point toward achievable goals.

Phase 3 – Collaborative Design
Once the family has determined where it wants to go, we work with appropriate advisors and other resources to determine how best that family can get there – and continue to grow thereafter. While I serve a function in plan design, the final plan will incorporate the good thinking and advice of all advisors within the family.

Phase 4 – Accountable Implementation
A plan developed but not implemented is of no value. By bringing sophisticated experience in an unbiased environment, I help families ensure that the right things are done by the right people, at the right time, directed toward the right goals. Standards and accountability are set for all advisors, family members and me so that together we can enjoy various points of achievement.

Phase 5 — Feedback Loop
Because personal planning is never a “set it and forget it” kind of thing, most Family Wealth Counseling engagements include intentional “re-connects” to determine what adjustments may be appropriate.  In some circumstances, this phase may involve facilitation or assistance in planning family or shareholder meetings, training sessions, expanding prior interactions as family members mature, marry, or have children, etc.

I am by background, experience and vocation an estate planning attorney.  However, Family Wealth Counseling engagements are most typically separate and distinct “consulting” relationships.  In other words, in those situations, someone else is the lawyer and I focus on the more personal side of the planning.

While there aren’t that many doing this type of work — although there are others doing some very, very good work in this field — the technical and legal background I have is particularly helpful in Phase 4 – implementation.  Poor execution of a good plan leads to poor results.  Unfortunately, a mismatch in the structure of legal documents — where a good portion of the implementation must occur — with the personal objectives of a family often goes unnoticed.

The above is a short description of an in-depth, highly personal process.  And, as always, I welcome your questions to help me better explain how the Family Wealth Counseling process positively impacts individuals and families.

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Mark initiated this blog due to his passion in assisting and equipping families to manage their wealth and their families well.

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