Need Suggestions to Jump Start Family Communication? (part 1)

Not long ago, we had a question about suggestions on how to encourage communication with the younger, or future, generation of owners in a family about intergenerational transfer possibilities.  The question could have as well been from the future generation on how to begin to communication with the current or older generation about the same issues.

Below are some suggestions we have used in our Landowner Legacy Communication© seminars.  All come from our own experiences and from those of families with which we have worked.

A few of the suggestions are in this post with the remainder in a subsequent one so check back later for the complete list.

First, someone has to begin the conversation which may not be as easy as it would seem.  If no one is asking questions, then either or both generations may be considering the other as well informed and satisfied or just not interested.  Typically, the current generation has to take the lead.  The future generation may feel awkward about taking the first step and feel they are being pushy or aggressive.  The current generation may find it difficult to discuss their death, and in most situations a discussion now about transfer of assets across generations inherently implies someone is going to die.  So it is just natural that developing a culture of family communication across generations related to a change in ownership will be hard for all generations in many families.

Second, a starting point might be the question “what can be done to start or improve family communication?” and it could be asked by either generation of the other one.  Another might be “by what means would the future generation like to communicate with the current generation?” which will allow the future generation to have specific input.  Whatever the question or questions, both generations have to work at starting family communication if intergenerational transfer is to be successful.

Third, either or both generations need to facilitate and maintain communication.  Planning, organizing, and conducting family meetings together is one way to get both generations involved, participating, and working with all members of the family.

Fourth, the current generation needs to be as open as possible with all information related to the change  in ownership of the family assets.  Most of the time this means the future generation has to be made aware of the current generation’s financial status which is information many of that generation find difficult to relinquish.  Naturally, age appropriateness would have to be considered before specific information is provided.

Additional topics will be discussed in the next post so please check back in a week or so.  If you have any comments or feel you have other suggestions related to this topic, please feel free to email me.

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