Multigenerational Family Unity and Prosperity

August 30, 2019

If you could see your children, grandchildren, and great-grand children together at a family gathering 50 years from now, what would you want to see and hear?

Many would answer with phrases like “family unity,” “individual accomplishment,” “family members living full productive lives,” “prosperous,” and “community involvement.”  Most parents would like to see that the vision, values, life experiences, and lessons that shaped their lives are remembered by, and have become building blocks upon which, successive generations have built successful, purposeful lives.

Most parents have 4 desired outcomes for their families:  protect their family from ever being destitute; provide their family with opportunities that will help them mature into healthy, productive adults; not promote a non-working lifestyle; and create a culture of communication and harmony in their family. 1

However, the odds are not in their favor.  You have likely heard the expression “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in 3 generations.”  Every culture in the world has a similar expression to describe the phenomenon that 90% of family prosperity and unity is gone by the third generation.  Numerous studies have shown that in 7 out of 10 first-generation-wealth families, both family wealth and unity are eroded by the second generation.  Sadly 9 out of 10 third generation families have lost both the wealth and unity the first generation once had. 1

Heritage design focuses on what the 10% of successful families are doing right to sustain family unity and prosperity across generations.  The top 3 elements are:  building a culture of communication and trust; identifying a common vision and purpose; and mentoring and preparing the next generation of leaders. 2   Think about it.  Every successful organization that sustains its competitive advantage across generations does exactly that. So why not use the same process within families?

Heritage design is about passing down who you are, the values by which you have led your life, and your life lessons and experiences.  It focuses on creating a pattern of communication amongst the family and organizing them for ongoing success through multigenerational family governance.  It’s about mentoring the children, from one generation to the next, and regularly affirming shared values and experiences.  It’s founded on teaching each successive generation to teach and empower the next, so that they can teach and empower the generation that follows them, and so on, in perpetuity.  Heritage design recognizes the importance of financial wealth as a resource and tool to help perpetuate the things that really matter, the things that will keep your family strong and prosperous for generations. 3

The heritage design process is designed to be repeated across generations, as the monarchs of each generation become mentors for the next.  Though there are a number of different programs with similar goals, the program which I found to be the most well-designed and structured, field-tested, and effective and efficient is The Heritage Process.® 4

Following an Alignment Conversation with the family “champion” (usually the parents), to identify their desired outcomes, gaps, value of filling the gaps, and whether The Heritage Process® will help them achieve their outcomes, the starting place for the family is the Family Alignment DayTM.  It is the beginning of the journey that will help your family thrive generation after generation.  It is a day of doing exercises and learning together as a family, where the members of the family define the purposes of their family and the value of keeping it together; learn a balanced view of wealth (far more than just financial); identify the value of being prepared to receive financial wealth; understand both why a vast majority of families fail to maintain family unity and wealth for multiple generations and the cure for that failure; identify the leadership and communication styles of each family member; learn how to enhance communication within the family; identify some common values on which everyone can agree; and identify the purpose of your family’s wealth and the benefits and value of keeping it within the family for multiple generations.

A successful outcome of the Family Alignment DayTM is that the family members leave with a shared vision of the family’s purpose and what is possible, an understanding of the communication and leadership styles within the family and how to enhance communication within the family, a list of common values, and agreed next steps to work towards mutually-defined priorities for the future.

Three years ago, I embarked on this journey with my husband, stepdaughters, and son-in-law.  It is fair to say that every member of “Team Butler” looks back on our first Family Alignment DayTM as one of the most impactful family experiences we have shared.  And it was only the beginning.  We have engaged in similar intentional, facilitated family-building experiences for 3 consecutive years.  My youngest stepdaughter, Bess, and I have been so inspired by the positive impact this has had on our own family that we have undertaken a 2+ year professional education and development program through The Heritage Institute to become certified Heritage Design Professionals in order to guide and facilitate other families through The Heritage Process®.

Having completed the first two modules of our certification program, Bess and I are now licensed to facilitate Family Alignment DayTM sessions.  If you would like to learn more about The Heritage Process® and how heritage design can help your family as it has helped ours, please contact me at  I will be happy to send you more information and talk with you about the overall process, Family Alignment Day®, and how it might be the first step your family takes in its journey to attain and sustain multigenerational family unity and prosperity.

Team Butler — Outdoor Team Building Day on Little St. Simons Island


1 Beating the Midas Curse by Perry Cochell & Rod Zeeb, c.2018

2 Heritage Design:  The 3rd Element of Successful Multi-Generational Planning,  Rod Zeeb, Cofounder & CEO, The Heritage Institute

3 The Elements of Heritage Design:  Sustaining Family Wealth & Unity Across Generations, Rod Zeeb & Ryan Zeeb

4 Desired Outcomes of The Heritage Process®