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Christmas Q&A: Joe Reilly Asks Charles Collier

Joe Reilly, President, Family Office Association, 21 December 2012

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Joe Reilly, president of the Family Office Association, sits down with Charlie Collier, former senior philanthropic advisor at Harvard, to talk about how he came to write his influential book, how to get a family comfortable talking about money, and living with Alzheimers.

Joe Reilly: What kind of questions do you ask during a family meeting? 

Charlie Collier: Well, for example, during a meeting to help a family have a conversation around their money and the inheritance to the next generation, I might ask:

·         How much information have you given your children about your wealth and your estate plans?

·         What are the qualities you want in a trustee for your children’s trusts?

·         Should you let your children make their own decisions about a prenuptial arrangement?

·         What are you doing to help your children find a binding passion and turn it into meaningful work?

·         What worries you most about your children's use of their inheritances?

·         What would your parents say about the financial inheritance you plan to leave your children?

These types of questions help families begin to change their thinking about making important decisions. My intent is to serve as a resource, not to tell them what to do, because there is no one right way to be a family.

Joe Reilly: You recently retired from Harvard, which recognized you at commencement for your unique service with the Harvard Medal. You have been forthcoming with the fact that you stepped down because of Alzheimer's. How has Alzheimer’s affected your life, and how are you coping as you continue your work with families?

Charlie Collier: The Harvard Medal was a wonderful surprise and honor. For me, it represents my relationship with the University and the many alumni families that I have met through the years. My master’s degree in divinity from Harvard has helped me think about my illness as a “gift.” I now volunteer my time with the development offices of several independent schools and colleges, as well as with the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. Helping families make good decisions about their futures has been my life’s work - my ministry, if you will - and I feel very fortunate to have had that opportunity. 

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