In Their Own Words
These stories are written by family members and others who candidly share their personal journeys working with The Williams Group. The privacy of our families is very important to us which is why we never disclose the family name, only the stories and experiences they have given us permission to share.
Opening Pandora's Box:
What Happens When A Family Knows There Are Issues, But Chooses Not To Take Action
Some years ago, a family called, as they were interested in taking The Williams Group 50-question Family Readiness Assessment Survey, which they did. At the time, there were four children and both parents were living. The Survey revealed very definite internal family problems which would need rectifying. The eldest daughter was quite concerned for her family and spearheaded a move for family members to take action to address trust and communication issues within the family. However, she was unable to get the cooperation from the rest of the family, therefore, nothing was ever accomplished.
Present day: the eldest daughter dies unexpectedly, and the father had died in the natural course of time. The mother, who was the surviving widow, had been forced out of the family business by the husband of the eldest daughter; the one surviving child is totally estranged from the other three. One child is divorced and his ex-wife has custody of their three children, all who have learning disabilities.
This family has become very dysfunctional, as originally feared by the eldest daughter, in spite of the fact there was plenty of money for all . . . what a shame they did not move forward 12 years ago to address these issues, as all their heartache could have been avoided.
The above story was shared by Peter Brown, attorney, Lathrop & Gage LLP in Oakland Park, Kansas.
Family Wealth Mission Statement 2-Day Process
The two days centered on an intimate and authentic exchange of individual values to form a Family Wealth Mission Statement. This Mission Statement provides a written declaration that captures our family values and purpose for our wealth. Wealth consists of assets, as well as time, reputation, position in community, and relationships.
Through this process, family members discovered there is great strength in the harmony of our diversity. The Family Wealth Mission development process revealed core values central to a strong foundation for alignment and unity upon which future decisions will be based. The next steps involve arriving at an explicitly shared understanding of the meaning of key words that will constitute the Mission Statement, and further articulation of how they will shape our future decisions.
It is our observation that in moments of chaos the family is now able to work together in moods of care and resolve, as opposed to blaming or judgment. Inevitably we will find ourselves in chaos. These unbounded states are where the opportunities lie to forge new courses of action that reflect the concerns of the whole leading to higher levels of engagement and value.
Comments From Family Members About The Family Wealth Mission Process:
“Overall I am pleased. We have made significant progress. My takeaway is we are moving forward. What is different is that we are self correcting.”
“Overall I think it went really well. I think we did really well this morning; it was peaceful and calm. My takeaway is to think about my values and see if I am living by them. I’m quite satisfied, and it is getting easier for me to speak up in a group. What I see that is different is there is a lot more honesty. Things aren’t offensive when they are phrased well.”
“This is my favorite weekend so far. I’m feeling very close to everyone and it is increasing. We could be totally open and intimately honest with each other. I am very satisfied. There is nothing rearing up as an issue any more. What is different is that conversations come so easily now, there is not so much tension in the room.”
“I like us getting to controlled enthusiasm in an open and honest way. I want to not just work on our part of the glossary, I want to look at all of the glossary so I’m prepared. What is different for me is what previously would have been very charged conversations are now very comfortable and very safe and don’t damage anybody. I would like our coach to continue to work with us. She knows when I have something to say.”
“What is different is that we can talk about who is in not in the circle in a very different way ... very positive! And yes, we have different behavioral styles and both styles can work and produce results.”
“The [value chart] is inspirational. I held back a bit. There was a lot of passion and participation by all of us. I have very passionate views about all the Glossary terms. We couldn’t have been here [done this] a year ago.”
“I’m really relieved. It was a big unknown about the mission process.”
The Wealth Transition Checklist: A Special Forces Marine Opens Up
By Roy Williams
Recently, a 66-year-old Special Forces Marine stopped by my office to visit. He asked, "Roy, I understand you've written a book and I hear it's pretty good. Do you think it will help me?"
Before me stood a proud and cautious Marine who was used to holding his feelings close to the vest. I suggested it might help him if he would answer just 10 questions in our Wealth Transition Checklist. As I started asking him the questions, he began to open up. Soon, I couldn't finish a question before he wanted to talk about it.
These 10 questions had a profound impact on him. He was not even aware he had the concerns he had until the questions brought them to the surface. When they did, he was overwhelmed and seeking answers. His comments, over and over again, reflected that, "No one is asking me these kinds of questions!"
At the core of his concerns was how to identify the issue of preparing his kids. All of his advisors were focusing on taxes, preservation, and governance, ignoring the core issues. He had never even thought about these issues before taking the Wealth Transition Checklist.
Because of these 10 thought-provoking questions, we were able to begin to explore meaningful options available to him in order to ensure his family would be prepared for the post-estate transfer.