Guidelines for Holding Family Meetings

A family meeting is a forum in which family members can share their ideas and concerns. The goal of the family meeting is to give individual members the opportunity to express what the land means to them as well as their financial or practical needs, and to allow the family to hear the needs and wants of others. This can be accomplished by simply asking each person to talk about how he or she feels about the land. Together, this information can guide your next steps and inform your work with estate planning professionals.

Sometimes a family’s dynamics prevent them from having healthy conversations about the future of the land. However, avoiding these important conversations now will likely lead to even more tension in the family later. A neutral person or a professional facilitator can often help guide these difficult conversations.

Though your goal may be to get your family to agree on a plan for your estate, there may be situations in which families are not able to work together or agree. In this case, you need to be prepared to take the input you have received; work with the necessary professionals; and do what you believe is right for yourself, your family, and your land. Do not get paralyzed by family disagreements. If you avoid planning because people don’t agree now, you can be sure the conflict will be greatly exacerbated after you are gone.


It often takes years to complete the estate planning process. Waiting until your family is grieving or dealing with health issues in not the time to start planning. The time to start is now! Ideally, your family meeting will not coincide with a holiday or family celebration. Separating the traditions and pressures of a holiday or celebration from the business of estate planning can ease some tensions and create the right tone for these conversations.


It is best to err on the side of inclusiveness, especially at the beginning of the process. Extending invitations to all family members, including spouses, ensures everyone will hear the same information first hand.

If you have a family member who does not want to be involved in the meeting, do your best to get them there by letting them know you value their opinion and would like to hear their thoughts. It can also be helpful to include them in away that will make them feel more comfortable, for example if they like to cook, ask them to help with food or if they know the land well, ask them to lead a hike.


Do your best to have you initial family meeting in person. The meeting should be held in a neutral place where everyone feels comfortable. This could be your home, but could also be a restaurant or conference room if your home is not a neutral location for everyone. If the meeting is near the land, visiting or walking it together before the meeting is a good opportunity to see the land and reflect on what the land means to each of them.

An estate is the total of all your assets, including your land, house, bank accounts, and any stocks and bonds. An estate plan ensures that your assets are distributed in a way that will meet the financial and personal needs of you and your heirs. 

Defining the next step

Maintaining momentum is very important. Take the list of questions and information needs developed at the meeting and assign people and timelines to specific next steps to help ensure that the effort is moving forward.