She believes the failure of advisors to plan for what happens when clients’ wealth passes to their heirs is not only a business risk, but a dereliction of fiduciary duty. She says she would discount the assets of any firm that had an average client age of 60 or older and had no strategy in place to work with the next generations. “The risk of attrition is just frightening,” she says.

To retain the next generation as clients, firms have to be very committed to creating a relationship with clients’ heirs and spouses and doing real multi-generational planning, not just spitballing retirement or long-term-care numbers, says Stephen Gresham, president of the Gresham Co. and the former head of the Private Client Group at Fidelity Investments. “It’s a conscious decision to organize your practice to capture the next generation. It doesn’t just happen.”

Bringing in younger advisors to the firm not only enhances its long-term viability by putting a succession plan in place; it also provides a talent pool that can relate to the next generation of clients. Paula Hogan, the president of Hogan Financial, says she has designed a multi-generational firm that includes different generations of clients and staff. She also has a partner in his 30s.

“Multi-generational planning is integrated from the beginning of our engagement when we ask clients, ‘Is the next generation prepared?’” says Hogan, who does comprehensive financial and estate planning and also creates a team of family members and professionals for each client relationship. “If kids are home during holidays,” she says, “we invite them in and introduce them to our team and say, ‘Next time, you can meet the estate attorney.’ Then we nudge them into annual meetings. We see this as part of comprehensive planning and our fiduciary duty.” Hogan’s client accounts average $2 million, but can go as high as $10 million.

For firms that haven’t built a planning approach around entire families, it is imperative to identify those affluent clients approaching wealth transfers and engage them in whole-family meetings. “We help advisors look at their books differently and show them the opportunity of engaging the next generation,” Valeri says. “To start, this may mean concentrating on 10 or 15 clients.”

Orlando designed a deck of 52 cards (called “Capitals Cards”) for advisors to use with individual family members. The cards help family members identify their top values and priorities. One of the cards, for instance, allows clients to prioritize an overall goal-based financial plan, while another might say that children and grandchildren should be included in a client’s acts of philanthropy. The strategic discovery questions are designed to help family members pinpoint values, planning goals, and gifting and philanthropy strategies that advisors can use.

Orlando and his team also share real-world ideas they’ve gleaned from advisors across the country—such as chartering boats, renting movie theatres, catering barbecues and providing targeted seminars for clients and their spouses and heirs. Some firms also bring Orlando or one of his team members in to facilitate multi-generational family meetings for their wealthiest client families. “We train them on how to successfully design and facilitate these meetings and in some cases, they ask us to co-deliver it with them,” Orlando says.      

“What Richard helps us do is penetrate and strengthen our relationships with the whole family, which not only informs our planning, but helps the parents and their kids develop even greater trust in us,” says Lars Okeson, family wealth advisor and CFO at PagnatoKarp, an advisory firm with almost $2 billion under management.

PagnatoKarp melds “family coaching into the portfolio management, estate planning and banking so we deliver it in an integrated fashion. We think it’s integral to incorporate family governance and talk about ways to transfer wealth and what it will mean to each generation,” adds Okeson, who says Orlando customizes advice based on each family’s values and needs.

“He’s very good at creating awareness for families about all the different ways they can achieve meaningful wealth transfer and educate their kids. Families are grateful. What we hear is, ‘We had no idea these services were available,’” Okeson says.