“Survey says!”

How Surveys Could Help You Transfer Wealth Successfully

If you’ve watched daytime TV at all over the past few decades, you’ve likely ended up watching at least one episode of Family Feud. In this popular game show, two families are pitted against each other to score points by attempting to choose the most common answer a broad set of survey participants has given to the questions. After the contestant gives his or her best (and often pathetically wrong) answer, the host announces “Survey says:” and displays the results.   

Family Feuding & Founder’s Assets

A much more serious kind of family feud can arise when affluent families plan how to distribute assets after founders (those who created the wealth) pass on. Siblings may have vastly different views of who deserves which assets or how to prepare for the transition, and founders may have been less than forthcoming about the details. For families who are serious about a successful generational wealth transfer, a survey could be a wonderful tool to get issues out on the table.

It’s hard to talk about money. Maybe that’s why heirs are often kept in the dark about what they will receive when parents or grandparents die. And the founder may feel a sense of vulnerability in opening up about personal assets to other family members. Additionally, some may simply want to keep the peace by avoiding topics likely to raise interpersonal tensions. An anonymous survey can allow all stakeholders in major financial decisions to express their preferences and concerns so these can be talked about and hopefully resolved in advance.

Create a Survey

There are free services available which allow you to create and email out a survey. For example, businesses often use Survey Monkey. You can choose whether to make a Survey Monkey survey anonymous. In addition, the service compiles results for your analysis. You can even use a free-form field for participants to give their comments. But because comments can be hurtful at times, you might want to rely on a third party such as an attorney, trustee, or even financial advisor to “filter” comments and provide you the summaries. Alpha Fiduciary is happy to serve as a moderator in such cases, if needed.

Crafting good questions can be tricky, so a firm like The Williams Group has ready-made surveys for families to use. The benefit of using their service is that they rely on decades of experience to ask just the right questions. Alpha Fiduciary can also draw on its resources to help you build appropriate, insightful questions based on its own Discovery Process. Whatever you use, be sure to think through not only the question but the range of answers that will prove most useful in your particular situation.

Hire a Financial Advisor & Moderator

You may also wish to use a third party moderator to conduct your family meeting to avoid issues caused by family power structure. The most important part of using surveys to discuss sensitive issues is to get them out in the open so what can be resolved is resolved during transfer planning. This might require a little humility in the beginning, but the results can far outweigh the consequences.

Alpha Fiduciary & You

Alpha Fiduciary’s financial advisors in Scottsdale have experience serving affluent families with complex needs and will be happy to help with a family survey or refer you to trusted professionals who can assist you. Don’t let another day go by without a wise plan in place.

About Arthur Doglione

Arthur is an industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience working with high-net-worth clients. He has an extensive background in wealth management with particular expertise in portfolio management. Before establishing Alpha Fiduciary, Art was a Senior Vice President with Merrill Lynch where he built his practice to be the largest of Merrill Lynch’s Arizona territory.

Art founded Alpha Fiduciary in 2006 and has completed two acquisitions since then. The firm currently serves clients across many states as a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor (RIA).

Art founded Alpha Fiduciary as a fiduciary advisory firm. This means it has a responsibility to its clients first and foremost.