what is a family constitution

You have probably heard of the constitution that governs a nation. In the political world, a constitution is drafted to define the bedrock and set the parameters of the governance of a nation.

What about a family constitution? It isn’t all that different. A family constitution lists down a set of guidelines and principles that the family believes in. It can be in the form of a family rule book, similar to how the Prime Family on our sunny island did it. A sophisticated one entails more details, including but not limited to the family history, values, beliefs, and conflict resolution principles.


See and learn how the Prime Family in Singapore did their very own family rules!


Fundamentals of a Family Constitution

The family constitution is a guide that clarifies the family ethos and guides future generations in their thinking and way of life.

Start by laying out the intangible factors (vision/mission/values). Then, move on to the actionable steps, which are the rules, expectations, strategies. Lastly, you may include some anecdotes to amplify the intangible and actionable factors.

A simple family constitution should consist of the following basic elements:

  • Family vision, mission and values
  • Roles and responsibilities of the different members within a family
  • General rules that all family members should follow

You can further enhance your family constitution by including past experiences of how obstacles were overcome.

If your family runs a business, you can reinforce the family constitution by including the following:

  • Business guiding principles
  • Decision-making strategies
  • Governance framework; roles and responsibilities of the members

There are many techniques you can use to design your family constitution. Different circumstances call for unique approaches. For example, if you advocate for animal rights, you can include a rule for family members to come together every year to volunteer at the animal rescue center. How cool is that?

Why is it Essential to Write a Family Constitution?

Beyond the practical purpose of being a guide to lay the groundwork for tough decisions, the family constitution brings a family together by accentuating the values unique to each family. It is also a way for future generations to remember the family’s heritage, legacy, and progress.

Some may think – in that case, won’t I be limiting the innovative spirit of the younger generation?

In reality, the establishment of a family constitution is an evolving process and is likely to undergo multiple refinements over time. As the family constitution passes through the hands of different generations, its contents may be changed and enhanced.

You may find the process of writing a family constitution an eye-opening one. There are no limits to what you can create!


Check out our interview videos with Georgie Lee as he shares his experience writing a family constitution!


Start writing one now!

A family constitution is not only reserved for the rich, large families or families with businesses. It is a guide and a gift of love you leave behind for your future generations. The family constitution you write today will assist in deterring family breakdown and disharmony. This will, in return, enable a flourishing family for the generations to come.

Start by involving your family in the journey and be the pioneer of the longevity of values and heritage in your family today.


Experiencing difficulties identifying values to include in your family constitution? Download the heritance beta App to access the store of values that you may include in your family constitution.


References

  • ClearLaw. (2018, February). 6 Good Reasons To Write Your Family Constitution. Retrieved from ClearDocs: https://www.cleardocs.com/clearlaw/estate-planning/family-constitution.html
  • Cline, J. (n.d.). Do We Need a Family Constitution? Retrieved from Stonehage Fleming: https://www.stonehagefleming.com/insights/detail/do-we-need-a-family-constitution
  • T’Serclaes, J.-W. d., & Marzo, S. (2015, June 9). Use a charter to sustain a family’s business and legacy. Retrieved from BCG: https://www.bcg.com/publications/2015/vision-mission-leadership-talent-use-charter-sustain-successful-family-business-build-legacy