By Marty Chiu

Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family … in another city.” — George Burns

Close — but not too close — is the ideal situation, right? Family ties can be messy. Often family relationships seem to unravel along the journey of life. This is probably not how family leaders intended it to be when their children were born.

What Would a Close Family Mean to You?

Imagine family relationships that grow with unity and harmony. Imagine that you are able to intentionally prepare and equip your heirs to lead the next generation. Also imagine that future generations will know and honor your family stories, traditions, and values. What would this mean to you?

Family leaders often fall into pits and seemingly cannot climb out. Read on to avoid the 3 biggest mistakes family leaders make that cause their family to fall apart.

#3 Mistake: They rely on traditional planning to fulfill wishes for their families.

What is “traditional planning”? It is financial and estate planning. Solid financial planning and estate planning are essential to keep the financial wealth of your family intact.

However, when families stop there, studies show that 9 out of 10 plans fail to keep the family’s wealth and unity for more than 3 generations. Think about it. The first generation makes it, the second generation adapts to it, the third generation enjoys it, and the fourth generation laments it. This condition is worldwide with examples dating as far back as 2000 years ago.

Traditional planning is a bit like a 2-legged stool. Another leg needs to be in place in order to support your planning. That leg is called Heritage Planning. Heritage Planning prepares the next generation of family leaders to sustain unity and trust among the family with the intent to continue it for multiple generations. Heritage planning is a process that creates a foundation upon which families can plan for and accomplish what matters most today and for generations to come. It is what the successful families integrated as a part of their family tradition. The families that stayed together intentionally developed the unity, strength, and harmony of the family now, which sets the foundation for  future generations. Through this process, the next generation of family leaders appreciate and respect their relationship with financial assets, utilizing it as a tool to help align, pursue, and support what really matters most in life. You may have prepared your financial assets for your family, but have you prepared your family for your financial assets?

#2 Mistake: They establish patterns of ineffective communication that breaks down trust between generations.

Often it is the patriarch or matriarch who leads the family by didactic instruction or commands to get things done. This form of leadership may be effective for a time but cannot sustain growth or unity over time. If this form of communication continues from childhood into adulthood, the result is usually a breakdown of communication, safety, and trust.

Parents are not given an owner’s manual upon having a child. Most parents learn to parent through on-the-job training. Mixed with responsibilities of a career, marriage, and maintaining personal life balance, the reality is that parents have little time to equip themselves to raise their family the way they imagined it. They often default to what they experienced growing up as a pattern to raise their family, and this is the model of what they think parenting should be like — along with the good, bad, and ugly experiences.

Miscommunication leads to misunderstanding resulting in missed opportunity for growth. Family leaders need to weave active listening within the fabric of the family’s communication pattern. It is especially important for family leaders to recognize their communication needs to be modified as their children become adults. No longer is it a conversation from adult to child but adult to adult. The respect for the grown child is essential if family leaders want to develop a trusting relationship. Family leaders should build relationship bridges, not burn them down.

#1 Mistake: Their family’s legacy vision is too nearsighted.

Family leaders typically hope the family will understand and get along with each other, hope the financial inheritance will be used prudently and not frivolously squandered, and hope the family will stay together and engage in family gatherings. They hope family members will follow family values and traditions once established by the family leaders. They are limiting their success by wishing for the future and not
planning for it. The true reality is that it is not very effective just to be lucky. Luck favors the prepared. Family leaders don’t plan to fail. They just fail to plan.

Many family leaders prepare for their demise by paying a lot of money to properly organize and plan for their financial and estate distribution. The family’s wealth extends beyond just the financial assets. The family wealth also includes some intangible assets, such as its relationships, traditions, values, and stories. They often neglect or don’t know how to prepare the family to have unity and harmony for future generations.

When preparing to transfer your family’s wealth, it makes sense to include financial, estate, and heritage planning together in unison. We help family leaders prepare the next generation of leaders by creating an environment of family growth, unity, and harmony while honoring family traditions, values, and stories. We help family leaders formalize an organized and purposeful document to help clarify why they would like to see the family thrive and share how the family members can participate on staying together as a family. This is what we call a Family Wealth Blueprint™.

The Family Wealth Blueprint™ is unveiled to family members at a forum where family leaders share their stories of how they have become who they are today, their vision for the future generations, and ask family members if they want to participate to make it a reality. For the members who choose to take the next step, they begin building effective skills to promote constructive dialogue to communicate with truth, safety, and trust. During the process, we record and memorialize the stories, traditions, values, and essential spirit of a family that is to be shared with future generations.

Together as a family, members unify and amplify the family’s purpose and values, creating a family dynamic of harmony that resonates with each member and the greater community. We intentionally create a new and positive forward-looking environment for the family to interact with one another with the intent to move the family in a healthy and harmonious path.

Where we are today depends on the decisions made yesterday. Decisions made today will impact the outcome of tomorrow. Clarifying where you want to be promotes better outcomes. If you want something you’ve never had, you need to do something you have never done. A step in the right direction is to learn how you can take intentional steps to a better outcome. Visit

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Marty Chiu is passionate to help clients align their life, family, and finances with purpose to create harmony in their life. He has counseled families for over 30 years helping them live their life’s best outcome. He is a graduate from California State University Long Beach and has been certified with The Heritage Institute.

Click to view an interview with the author!