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Three Key Elements for Engaging Your Next Generation in Legacy Planning

January 24, 2013
by Jack Reynolds

Talking to your family about legacy planning can be like going to the doctor. You know you need to do it, but you might worry that it could be hard. Further, the longer you postpone it the more likely it is that problems will arise. I have seen families wince with pain at the thought of talking with their children, or more broadly their next generation (NexGen), about legacy planning. Some even defer these conversations entirely. The NexGen can feel equally uncomfortable discussing legacy planning with senior family members if they are not properly prepared or engaged.

If you can relate to these issues then you are not alone. Wealth transfer, philanthropic values and wealth education have consistently taken a back seat to investment strategy and spending management in my annual investment assessment survey. Further, these conversations can be emotionally charged. However, they are profoundly important to private investors as they search for ways to involve future generations in legacy planning.

This week’s article focuses on three key elements for successfully engaging your next generation in legacy planning. If you would like to read related articles about governance policies and legacy planning that I have written in the past, please visit governance policies and legacy planning (click on the underlined words to read the articles).

Three Key Elements for Engaging Your Next Generation in Legacy Planning

  1. A Stake

    It is nearly impossible to engage your NexGen in your investment process unless they have a meaningful stake in the outcome of your investment process today, versus next year or next decade. The amount of income and access to capital you provide them with is highly situation-specific.) Giving your NexGen access to income (e.g. cash distributions and/or other capital is hugely valuable in getting their attention. It also demonstrates that you trust and respect them, which will likely encourage them to play a constructive role in your investment affairs. However, providing the NexGen with a stake is not enough to fully engage them in legacy planning.

  2. A Vote

    Engaging your NexGen in your investment process also requires that you provide them with a vote. After all, who would want to read detailed investment reports, participate in meetings and address topics which are not their truest passions unless their vote is taken seriously? If you do not want to give NexGen members voting privileges immediately, then consider a period of on-the-job training in which they attend calls and meetings before they are given voting privileges. Just be sure that this training period is not too long, lest it will undermine the trust and respect you have demonstrated in providing them with a stake.

  3. A Voice

    Once you give members of your NexGen a stake and a vote you might think that you have done everything you possibly could do to bring them onboard. A generation or two ago you might have been right, but not today. If you want to increase your chances of successfully engaging the NexGen in your investment affairs, then you need to give them a voice too. You may be asking, “Whatever is he talking about?” If you really want to engage with your NexGen members, you need to invite them to help shape agendas. Otherwise, they will be voting on issues they may not care passionately about, which will not truly capture their attention and devoted participation. Providing NexGen members with a voice gives them an opportunity to contribute constructively to the range of alternatives under consideration.

Summary

Providing your NexGen members with a stake, a vote and a voice is not always easy. When you give NexGen members a stake, they may not use the cash distributions or capital as you wish they might. When you give them a vote, you may not reach the same outcomes that you might have achieved on your own. When you give them a voice, you may be drawn into areas that do not reflect your highest priorities. Such results can cause friction.

There is certainly no fool-proof way to engage your NexGen in legacy planning, but based on my experience, the risks of not engaging your NexGen members far outweigh the risks of engagement. Providing NexGen members with a stake, a vote and a voice allows your governance profile to evolve with each generation based on their needs and desires. Further, it allows you to identify potential leaders, coach NexGen members yourself and/or select others who can coach them.

As always, if you would like to discuss any of these topics in more detail, I would be happy to speak with you at our mutual convenience. Feel free to ring me at 617-945-5157 or send me an email at Jack@RGPIC.com.

Jack

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