Organize a Family Retreat to Begin Your Legacy Plan

Steven Zeller |

If you are a first or second generation family of accumulated wealth, going through the exercise of formulating a family legacy plan can prove to be very beneficial to your family for many generations. A legacy plan is a carefully crafted plan that goes beyond traditional estate planning, that addresses the accumulated wealth in a family and how best to utilize it, preserve it, and positively impact your family for many generations.

The legacy planning process addresses three types of wealth: human wealth (our relationships), intellectual wealth (our knowledge, creativity & imagination), and financial wealth (assets). The exercise is meant to promote and preserve these three types of wealth within the family as well as strengthen the family going forward.

The first major step in the planning process is the family retreat. The family retreat is usually a one day meeting that is facilitated by a trained consultant in the area of family legacy planning. Family members who are the leaders of the retreat are the wealth accumulators (traditionally speaking, a husband and wife). The term wealth accumulators usually means the family members that were inspired and worked for many years in a valiant effort to accumulate wealth - often through the creation of a successful company.

Before the family retreat takes place, a thorough exploration of family values, hopes, wishes, challenges, and opportunities related to the family and financial wealth is completed. This step raises many thought-provoking questions which are addressed in ways that are stimulated to arrive with answers that come from deep within your heart. Once this is done, a follow up discussion is conducted between the wealth accumulators, and if they decide to do so, include the family legacy consultant.

At this point, you are ready to plan the family retreat. The family retreat needs to be planned for a full day at a remote location preferably. It needs to be a place to where family members feel safe, comfortable and are willing to explore deep feelings, values and ideas regarding the family, views on money and wealth, family challenges, and how to make the biggest positive impact on future generations of your family.

The atmosphere of a family retreat needs to be one that is a safe place, that family members can share their deepest feelings and views at their desired pace and length without being interrupted or discounted. Absolute trust and respect needs to be in place. From there, most likely every bit of the day will be spent exploring various issues and feelings including the psychological, spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial aspects of wealth, with the goal of drafting a family vision statement, mission statement, financial philosophy statement, and letter of intent.

Typically an advisor, in their traditional role, tends to give direction and advice in a planning process, but in this case, the advisor serves as a coach or a guide to help the family members through the process, arriving to their own conclusions on key family issues.

Following the family retreat, the next step is to organize a family meeting that includes the family members that will be directly impacted by this planning process. It is highly advised that expert facilitators are included in this step. A trained professional outside the family unit is needed to establish rules and boundaries for the meeting, promote a positive atmosphere, and prevent family friction through respect.

The family retreat can be a life changing experience; it will help to lay the foundation for a healthy view of the various aspects of family wealth, and lay the foundation for your inheritors to begin to strive towards a common purpose and assume leadership roles to implement those efforts. The outcome of this exercise may impact your family positively for many generations.


Steven Zeller, Advisory Services offered by Zeller Kern Wealth Advisors, a Sacramento Wealth Management firms and a Registered Investment Adviser.