Personal legacy planningClient story: Talking about money and family wealth for the first time

Key things to know

  • A family’s wealth had grown dramatically through the years without most of them realizing it.

  • Ascent helped the family first understand each other’s communications styles and shared values, then facilitated conversations about their wealth and how to use it.

  • Today, the family is confident and aware of their financial situation.

The client

Samuel and Lynda* had raised their son and daughter, now in their 30s, in a modest, middle-class home. Samuel’s business had grown dramatically over the past decade, but the money mostly remained in the business. Lynda and the children were in the dark about the business and their wealth.

When a business partner expressed concern that the company did not have a succession plan, Samuel decided it was time to make his family aware of their wealth and begin considering family estate planning and wealth management.

The challenge of talking about money and family wealth

Samuel wanted to bring his family into a deeper understanding of their family wealth, but he didn’t want to overwhelm them with details. The family business was complex and growing, so the “reveal” needed to happen in various stages to prevent information overload. Samuel had quietly built an empire that the family was simply unaware of.

Another challenge he was facing was that the family was not familiar with financial terms and investment strategies, so they needed basic financial education. Based on the business partner’s initial concern, the family also needed help with succession planning.

Finally, Samuel wanted the family to establish a philanthropy plan.

The approach to starting the conversation about family wealth

Samuel initiated the process by contacting an attorney he knew through a trusted referral. The attorney understood the complexity of his estate and recommended that he also work with Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S. Bank to assist him with his goals for his family’s future. Samuel reached out to a regional director in his area and the Ascent team got to work in determining the best approach to take with all the family members.

The family’s relationship with Ascent began with a series of phone calls to each family member. These calls helped the Ascent team understand everyone’s position and eventually led to a breakfast meeting where the family could meet the Ascent team.

As part of the initial conversations, the team learned about each family member’s personality styles, learning skills and values. Those values varied, so it was vital for Ascent to ascertain the family’s shared core values so they could discuss the situation in a fashion that would engage every family member.

The next step was a three-day retreat where the Ascent team and the family strengthened their bond. Each family member took a temperament assessment, which uses a series of questions to determine communication styles. They also used family history cards, which ask participants revealing questions such as, “If you had to choose a symbol for your family, what would it be and why?,” and “Share a story about an event or situation that has had a lasting impact on your family.”

A key result of the exercise was that the Ascent team was able to bridge Samuel’s communication style with the others so that he felt heard in ways that he hadn’t been able to before.

After the offsite retreat, Ascent held quarterly meetings with the family that covered various issues from investment strategies to trust management. Also during those quarterly meetings, Samuel shared details with his family about the business in order to slowly illuminate the wealth they held. Each family member learned about the roles they played in the family’s situation, and they developed a deeper understanding of the world of wealth.

Succession planning was covered in a series of the quarterly meetings, and the Ascent team worked collaboratively with the attorney who had originally referred Samuel.

A second offsite retreat, this time for two days, was held a year later to discuss philanthropy. Ascent’s philanthropic impact specialist joined the Ascent team to assist the family in the creation of their giving plan, including a donor advised fund and ultimately family foundation, that would meet their priorities and be properly structured.

Throughout the meetings, the Ascent team reinforced the family’s learning with frequent touchpoints. Many meetings began with a refresher about what had been discussed in the previous meeting to relevantly apply the lessons and solutions discussed.

The outcome of openly talking about money and family wealth

Today, the family uses the full line of Ascent’s wealth management services, including banking services, cash flow planning, strategic investments and trust investments. Equally important, the family has a clear understanding of their financial situation – and the future plans for the family’s wealth. Today, they have much greater confidence and awareness of their situation than they had previously.

Learn how Ascent Private Capital Management can work closely with you and your family to lay the groundwork for a successful transition of wealth.

*Names have been changed.

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Bridging the gap between values and generational family wealth

The best place to start engaging and educating family members of all ages and attitudes toward money is with what matters most: values.

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