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How 5 Advisors Helped Clients Resolve Family Conflicts Over Money: Advisors' Advice

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As advisors know, financial planning decisions are often family decisions. And this can be particularly true of the wealthiest clients.

“Dealing with wealthy families is less about a retirement plan but more about a family plan,” John Mathews, head of Private Wealth Management at UBS, told ThinkAdvisor in a recent interview. “The investment selection is actually the easy part.”

As anyone with a family knows, family decisions often come with conflict. For the latest installment in our Advisors’ Advice series, ThinkAdvisor asked advisors to tell us how they have helped resolve a conflict in a wealthy client’s family.

Five advisors told us about conflicts that ran the gamut from family loans to the transfer of wealth to other family members.

One of the advisors also told ThinkAdvisor a story from before his time as a financial planner, when he was an investigator for the Economic Crimes Unit of Boulder County Probation.

“A family member stole over $150,000 from her elderly mother,” recalled Robert Persichitte, a financial planner at Delagify Financial in Arvada, Colorado.

“Remember, in these types of conflicts, nobody is the villain of their own story,” he said. “The offender thought she was justified in stealing the funds even after being convicted in a jury trial.”

There is one thing that is needed from third parties when dealing with families in situations like this, whether one is an advisor or another profession, according to Persichitte.

“The key to mediation is empathy,” he said. “Even if someone’s position is ridiculous (like grand theft), you need to get inside their head and figure out why they feel that way. Sometimes acknowledging their feelings gets them to open up and recognize the feelings of their family members.”

Check out advisors’ responses in this slideshow.