Successful Planning: Who Should Be Involved?

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

Benjamin Franklin

In no way am I claiming to be smarter than Ben Franklin, but I will take his quote one step further. Franklin was right that planning is very important, but more needs to be added. After all, he died almost 225 years ago.

In the realm of multi-generational family planning, for business families or families of even moderate wealth, it is very important to make sure that you have the right people at the table when it comes time to make the plans.

Let’s look at another great quote (author unknown) that is also very profound. I will give you the backstory in a second.

“Plans that are about us, but don’t include us, are not for us”.

This is a quote that I got from Matt Wesley, a man who I consider to be one of the gurus in helping families with the dynamics of their legacy planning work.

I first heard Matt mention this quote a few months ago during a teleconference presentation for the Purposeful Planning Institute. Then, a few weeks ago while he was co-presenting on another PPI call, an audience member quoted it back to him during the Q & A session.

He thanked the participant and then added a bit more context for those who had missed the original citation. It comes from New Orleans in 2005, post Katrina.

He told us that he got the quote from the work of Margaret Wheatley, who was examining the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Actually, it was a series of disasters, starting with the hurricane, but then also the fallout from the government’s response, which for many people ended up making things worse instead of better.

So where did Wheatley get the quote? It was spray-painted on the outside of one of the flood-ravaged houses in New Orleans. The disaster of the government response stemmed largely from the fact that they were dictating what would be done, without consulting the people for whom it was to be done.

Anyone can make plans, but you will only know how good your plans are once you get to the implementation stage. If things fall apart then, it may have been due to poor implementation, but then, shouldn’t the implementation have been part of the planning too?

If you are planning how you will help people after a flood, you might want to ask them what they need.

If you are planning what assets you are going to leave to your children, and how they are supposed to work together to manage those assets, you just may want to get them involved during the planning.

Here are some common planning approaches:

  1. Parents and advisors make the plans, children find out after death.

Not great, usually pretty bad, family harmony is an afterthought, plenty of disappointment and lack of preparedness to go around.

  1. Parents and advisors make the plans, and inform the children of the plans as a “fait accompli”.

A little bit better, but only slightly. If the siblings get along alright, hopefully they can work through the details and still want to get together as one big happy family over the holidays every year.

  1. Parents and children (actually former children, now adults!) work together on plans, and decisions are made in the best interests of the entire family. Once they know what they want to accomplish, they THEN engage the advisors to fine-tune the details of HOW they will write it up.

Actually, I said that these were common approaches. The last one is easily the best, but it is not yet common enough.

Hopefully, we are getting closer to the point where parents are satisfied that they have done a good enough job as parents to allow their offspring to have some say in their destiny.

The old “it’s MY money, so I will decide what I am going to do with it” seems so 20th century to me.