Create a Family Education Program to “Train Up” Your Heirs

In The Blum Firm’s research on Family Legacy Planning, we discovered (not surprisingly) that one of the greatest causes of family failure is unprepared heirs. To combat that problem, you have to be intentional. You can’t expect heirs to just automatically learn all they need to know to become responsible inheritors. We recommend that every family create an in-house education program tailored to your family’s specific situation.

Here are the steps to create a family education program:

1. First, assess where you are. Then decide what information you’d like your heirs to know. Every family has its own needs and its own vocabulary. This is not a “one size fits all” process. The difference between where you are and where you want to be defines a “gap” that you want to fill.

2. Meet everyone where they are, at their age and sophistication level. Design separate programs for different groups. Deliver the content in an age-appropriate way, spoon feeding it out as they’re ready to receive the doses of information. Don’t overload their brains with a “fire hose” blast of detail.

3. Use a variety of formats, such as reading materials, games, teleconferences, and outside speakers. Make it interactive and not a lecture. Find a balance between finance and fun.

4. The curriculum goes beyond finance. Be sure to include family history, values, lessons learned, philanthropy, wealth stewardship, as well as financial literacy, money management, estate planning basics, and legal duties.

5. Identify who will be responsible for implementing and monitoring the education program. Choices include a learning committee formed within the family, an outside advisor, or a family office employee.

6. Modify the program over time to continue meeting the family where they are. As family members grow and learn, the education content and methods will need to evolve.

The next big question is always: At what age do we start? Answer: It’s never too early. There are lessons that even very young kids can learn, if delivered the right way. In the Jewish tradition, as expressed in Ethics of the Fathers, we learn: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” In the Blum family, we’re already starting with our grandchildren. Remarkably, I’m teaching them, but they’re also teaching me!

Marvin E. Blum

Marvin Blum and his grandchildren: “Counting my blessings: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”