On the weekend of September 7th & 8th, 2012, a new era of estate planning was launched when 34 professionals met for the first-ever Collaborative Practice Trusts & Estates Training in Silicon Valley, California. Building on the pioneering work of Collaborative Divorce, Collaborative Trusts & Estates is now available to assist families in dealing with trust, communication and financial issues in the context of the inter-generational transfer of wealth and values.
Led by well-known Collaborative Practice experts Nancy Ross, Alan Nobler and Cathy Daigle, the training covered the practical, ethical, and communication skills needed by practitioners to assist families in one of the most complex and challenging transitions any of us will ever face. Attendees, some from as far away as Arizona and Canada, had the opportunity to observe and participate in role-playing that brought the dynamics and complexities of typical family life as it relates to the hopes, dreams, fears and concerns of elders and younger generations into sharp relief.
The sense of being on the cutting edge of new possibilities was palpable in the room from the very beginning, and at the end, course participants stayed for informal discussions and camaraderie. “Of all of the Collaborative Trainings I’ve ever been a part of,” Nancy Ross shared, “this one was the first one where nobody wanted to leave when the training was over!” As with any new discipline, there is still work to be done, refining, testing, and further refining the practice and application of this new area of practice, but the participants seemed up to the task, and ready to spread the word. Ross pointed out that the Silicon Valley Practice Group feels no proprietary ownership of the course material; in fact, she hoped that the material developed for the course would be used by other Collaborative Practice groups in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Collaborative practice turns the traditional model of “I’m the professional, and I know what’s best for you” on its head, by placing the family firmly in charge of its own goals and destiny. The expertise of professionals from disciplines as diverse as law, finance and psychology must learn to put aside their own agendas, and operate as a team. That teamwork can be a challenge, especially for high-powered professionals, but it’s also an opportunity to taste the transformation that families experience as they learn to work together and cooperate.
The results can be surprising. Ross says that most divorcing spouses that utilize the Collaborative Divorce method of alternative dispute resolution wind up remaining friends, which is far different from the norm. What’s possible, perhaps predictable, is that future generations in families where Collaborative Estates has been used will remain more cohesive, connected and stable. What will that mean in terms of the success and satisfaction of generations to come? One can imagine that the benefits will ripple far out in time and in the world.
Whatever shape Collaborative Estates & Trusts will take is now in the hands of 34 inspired professionals. If the current planning and passion evident in Silicon Valley is any indication, we can expect to hear a lot more from this group in the future.