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Happily ever after estate planning story

How to Get Three Generations to the Table

My family has meals together, 3 generations. Before quarantine for COVID-19, we would sit at a table for dim sum, xiao long bao dumplings, peking duck or sushi (occasionally Italian). But how often do 3 generations sit down at a table to have crucial conversations about wealth and finances? Rarely? Never?

My story of working with 3 generations in estate and tax planning started at a charity event. A client and I struck up a conversation about parents and children. We laughed that as parents got older, they become stubborn children over who you have no authority. You worry, but it’s hard to keep them safe.

When I explained that estate and tax planning is most effective when all affected parties are at the table, it then started happening. A family meeting of the parents and adult children took place, at a boardroom table. I saw the following progression: asking hard questions, the family agreeing that the hard questions need answers, to the family agreeing to an estate plan that would minimize the disruption to the family and financial health of each one of the family members once the first generation passed.

After a number of years, both parents passed. The tax man (CRA) received taxes without the family having to have a distress sale of assets. The adult children asked me to invite their children as the rising generation to the family meeting table. Then we sat at a table reflecting on the story of Grandfather and Grandmother: marrying, building a family, investing in a business, and becoming successful. We told them that the story continues because of the wisdom of their grandparents, and that the family was willing to have open communications between generations. Business questions went to trusted professionals who keep track of the financials of the enterprises and reported to the family. Family questions went to the directors made up of family members, by majority vote. There was transparency and accountability. Nothing was biased or hidden.

When I was near the close of the meeting, the third generation, of their own accord, expressed their gratefulness for their family, that they would like to step up to the responsibilities involved in running the business and to learn more. They expressed that they would like to honour the memories of their grandparents onto the fourth generation who are toddlers and infants now.

A fairy tale you say? No, a good estate planning tale. Ask your financial and estate planner how you can get started today. If you are not working with a financial and estate planner, contact me. I would be happy to help you drive your estate planning to safely go where you want to go.

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