Including the family in financial planning

6 tips for virtual family meetings

Meeting with clients' families can have numerous benefits. These meetings can help solidify your client's legacy, ensure a smooth transfer of wealth, and instill financial literacy and good stewardship into future generations. They also offer an invaluable platform to establish relationships with your clients' heirs, which could help you earn their business in the future.

Yet, even in the best of times these conversations can raise challenging family issues stemming from a full range of family complications, such as differences of opinion, relationship difficulties, or divergent values. These dynamics may be even more difficult to navigate in a video call.

Thoughtful planning and care, however, can keep virtual meetings on track and make them just as valuable as traditional meetings around a conference table. Here are six tips to help make your virtual family meetings as positive and productive as possible.

Keep family members on the same page. Preparation helps lay the groundwork for a focused meeting—and you're not the only one who should prepare. First, talk with your client about the family members who should participate. They might include late-teen or adult children, as well as adult children's spouses; siblings; nieces and nephews; or other close relatives.

To give family members a chance to prepare, send an agenda or a topic list to each person in advance and ask them to inform you of any additional issues they'd like to raise. This step can help you and everyone in attendance know what to expect.

Use a tip sheet to help virtual meetings run smoothly. Communication is key for any productive meeting, particularly one involving family. In a virtual meeting, the logistics of communicating can get complicated, especially if some individuals don't have much experience with video conferencing. Head off potential technical difficulties by sending a tip sheet before the meeting with details on how to best use the video conferencing software you'll use. Specific instructions might include:

  • How to download the software, if necessary
  • How participants can mute and unmute their microphone
  • How to turn on their camera
  • How to use the chat function, if you plan to use it
  • The importance of talking in turn and not talking over one another

Offer the option to dial in. Some clients or family members may be uncomfortable with video calls altogether or lack the necessary technology. Others may be sharing bandwidth with students or remote workers in their home, making video calls impractical. Provide an audio-only alternative so that people in these situations can still participate in the meeting.

Provide secure document-sharing. With in-person meetings, it's easy to pass around handouts or copies of documents that can help you explain and share information. Those materials are no less important in a virtual meeting. Give clients and family members a simple, secure way to send you documents—such as updated wills and financial statements—before the meeting. And choose a simple way to share any documents family members will need. Attaching a PDF via email may suffice for sending a meeting agenda, but for more sensitive documents send a secure link through a document-sharing app.

Take a moment to welcome everyone. The start of a virtual meeting is sometimes the shakiest part, especially for people who aren't tech-savvy. Kick off family meetings by taking a beat, giving time for everyone to join. Acknowledge each participant warmly and make sure they can hear. This step gives family members a chance to get acquainted with the virtual format, greet one another, and understand how the process works. It also allows you to set the tone, put everyone at ease, and begin forging new relationships.

Follow up. After the meeting, send an email to each participant with a brief recap and next steps. Invite clients and family members to share any questions or concerns. Following up can help you identify issues individuals might not have felt comfortable sharing with the full group, while strengthening relationships and opening the door for future communication.

Family meetings can address myriad values and goals that clients hold dear, such as philanthropy, succession plans for a business, paying for education, funding a family member's long-term care, or transferring wealth to their heirs.

Helping them share these intentions, answering questions, and facilitating discussion can help you ensure that a client's vision and plans for the future can come to fruition. In a virtual setting, a little extra planning and preparation can help you make the most of these meetings by keeping them productive, helping you lay the groundwork for future business, and delivering value to your clients and their loved ones.


What you can do next

  • Get your clients enrolled in Schwab Alliance. The online and mobile platform is designed exclusively for clients of independent advisors.
  • Consider a custodian that invests in your success. If you're thinking about becoming an independent advisor, contact us to learn more about the benefits of a Schwab custodial relationship.