Involving the Next Gen in Family Governance — Susan Schoenfeld

4 min readSep 5, 2023


Photo by The Jopwell Collection on Unsplash

Susan R. Schoenfeld, CEO and Founder of Wealth Legacy Advisors LLC, serves as a ‘thought partner’ to families of wealth through personal attention and human spirit. Susan is an award-winning Thought Leader; she provides guidance on legacy, next-generation, stewardship, governance, leadership succession, and philanthropy. She recently spoke on Family Governance at Opal Group’s Family Office Forum.

The opportunity to mentor the next generation is critical. Give them an opportunity to be heard, to voice their feelings, and to participate in the family meetings, even before they’re of age.

When they are teenagers, they can be invited to attend family meetings or family council meetings as advisory board members. Consider offering them a role, a seat at the table, so that they have a voice, even if they may not necessarily have a vote. Welcome them at the table and give them an opportunity to watch, to learn, to listen, and to speak.

Because ultimately, if they are not engaged in the process of developing how the family’s governance process works, how can you expect them to be governed by it?

I’m a big believer in participatory government and asking the questions of the next generation that give them an opportunity to use their voice and to be heard. Maybe they will come up with a suggestion that someone else hadn’t yet thought of, because they provide diverse views and experiences from a different generation.

So by all means, give them a seat at the table, give them a voice, even if perhaps they’re too young to have a vote. Form a Junior Advisory Council of those younger cousins and invite them in, because otherwise, if you wait too late, they will become disengaged. And then the families come to me and say, “What do I do? My kids aren’t engaged in our family’s governance process.“

It is never too late to start. The ideal time to start was yesterday, but you can’t start yesterday. So start today.

One practical technique which I’ve employed with some families is creating an endowment to cover travel expenses to allow all the extended family members to attend the annual gathering, or to cover the upkeep of the family vacation compound. Creating an endowed fund with the specific purpose of endowing the family’s ongoing activities is a wonderful way to de-stress that annual family meeting or other family activities.

Susan Schoenfeld, a public speaker & thought partner to families of wealth and their advisors, is an award-winning thought leader. Susan’s switch from successful estate planning attorney and CPA to a trusted family advisor and thought-partner was inspired by families of wealth asking her searching questions beyond estate tax planning. As a conflict-free advisor who provides no investment, tax, or legal advice and sells no product, Susan shares her insights directly with wealthy families and with financial services experts. She is active as a keynote speaker and a leader of break-out sessions and workshops at conferences throughout the US.

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