What is “wealth?” Upon hearing this question, your thoughts might run first to material possessions: money, real estate, and other assets. However, when you really think about it, your true wealth is much more than just your accumulated assets. It encompasses the financial and the non-financial, and many people would argue that the most important elements of true wealth are all those things that don’t show up on a balance sheet, things like your life experiences, your faith, your values, your work ethic, and your family history.
This distinction between simple financial wealth and true wealth takes on extra significance when you begin to plan your estate. Traditional estate planning focuses on distributing your financial wealth to your chosen beneficiaries in the most time- and cost-effective manner. Legacy Planning, on the other hand, goes several steps further. Not only does it accomplish the financial objectives of traditional estate planning, it also helps to preserve your financial wealth as it passes from generation to generation, and it helps to ensure that your non-financial wealth is handed down to your children and grandchildren. The result is that you have an opportunity to build a true legacy and bond within your family.
One method for leaving behind a lasting legacy is the Family Wealth Trust, a planning tool that is flexible in meeting the specific needs of you and your loved ones. Within a Family Wealth Trust, there are two levels of protection: the Family Access Trust and the Family Sentry Trust. Both allow you to do more than simply pass on your accumulated possessions at your death.
For parents whose children are mature and have proven themselves to be good money managers, the Family Access Trust provides a combination of financial protection and flexibility. Your children have broad access to their inheritances, but the Trust keeps those assets separate from their personal finances. This allows your children to have the maximum control over their complete financial picture, while protecting their inheritances from unexpected events, like a divorce.
For children who are inexperienced with money, or who are facing a substance abuse problem or a similar issue, the Family Sentry Trust goes a step further. Not only does it protect your children from divorce or lawsuits, it also protects them from their own lack of experience or ill-advised decisions.
The Family Wealth Trust also allows you to hand down the non-financial wealth that is so often ignored by the traditional estate planning process, but is often the most important part of your legacy. Not only can you make sure your valued personal possessions and family heirlooms make it into the hands of the appropriate loved ones, you can provide context and meaning to the inheritances you leave behind by passing along your memories, wisdom, and values.
No matter what your family’s needs, a Family Wealth Trust can help you protect your true wealth and ensure that it is preserved from generation to generation. An experienced estate planning attorney who focuses on Legacy Planning can help you secure your family’s future.
This article was written by The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and provided to you courtesy of Attorney Nicole Livingston.
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