Dialogue accesses knowledge that is otherwise inaccessible to individuals inquiring alone.

Suppose the major estate asset is the family business.

Does your estate plan ask some children to invest their working lives in the company?

Does your estate plan ask the other children to allow their inheritance to be managed by their siblings indefinitely?

Family dialogue between the givers and receivers during estate planning can access vital family knowledge that is otherwise inaccessible to parents and their advisors planning alone.

These younger generation investors of career or capital are infinitely better served if consulted in advance, and not taken for granted or by surprise.

Secret Planning

Too much business and estate and business planning takes place in secret.

Without their children’s knowledge or input too many parents guess at what their children want, or ought to want.

They guess at what their children need or ought to need.

They guess at the effect their wealth plan may have on their children’s most important relationships.

In secret, their children are taken for granted and ultimately by surprise.

Parents’ decisions are unduly influenced by tax advisors, who pay too little attention to human consequences.

Learning Family Dialogue

Sooner or later, business families learn that Family Dialogue requires more than customary business communication skills.

The business leader who makes final decisions day-to-day must learn to participate in Family Dialogue rather than end the discussion by deciding himself.

A younger generation spouse learns to voice concerns long held dormant.

A child with no career interest in the company becomes a co-creator of the company’s future.

We support that which we help create.

Decisions reached in Family Dialogue become ours, even if we don’t get all we thought we wanted at first.

Treat my children equally!

“Treat my children equally” may mean no more than parents love each child individually.

Parents may not want to acknowledge their children’s differences in competence or circumstances.

The genius of parenting is to understand and respond appropriately to the individual differences in our children.

It’s impossible to treat them exactly equally.

Children’s perceptions of fair treatment may be more important to them than mathematical equality.

Fair treatment is personal, connected, affection-based.

It’s not what a parent considers fair, it’s what a child perceives as fair.

If a child gets a fair hearing during parents’ wealth planning process, the more likely the child will perceive the ultimate plan as fair.

Family Dialogue during estate planning offers parents a sublime opportunity for family statesmanship.

Children will remember their example.

Planning for Strong Relationships

At some point during the estate planning process, I wish one family member would step forward and say to the advisor:

“I think we understand about the taxes and how our wealth will be managed. Now will you spend some time discussing how your plan will affect our lives day-to-day, and the lives of our children and grandchildren?”

“We would like to include our children in these discussions?”

“Let’s meet with them before we’ve decided on a final plan?”

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