Leaving a Legacy: A Guide for High Net Worth Families

Jeff Green |

For many families who have amassed a high amount of wealth, those assets are not just a measure of financial success; they are an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy that transcends generations.

As a financial advisor, I often encounter clients eager to explore the concept of legacy planning but uncertain about where to begin. In this guide, we'll talk about what it means to do legacy planning, how to understand this multifaceted topic, initiate meaningful conversations with your family and take practical steps toward turning your dreams of a legacy into reality.

What Is Legacy Planning?
Legacy planning in the financial world refers to the process of arranging and managing a person's financial affairs to ensure the smooth transfer of wealth and assets to future generations or beneficiaries after their passing. The primary goal of legacy planning is to preserve and protect assets, minimize tax implications and facilitate the efficient distribution of wealth according to the individual's wishes. Key components of legacy planning may include:

  • Estate Planning: This involves creating a comprehensive plan for the distribution of assets upon death. It typically includes the creation of a will, trusts, and other legal documents to specify how assets should be divided among heirs.
  • Trusts: Establishing trusts can help protect assets and manage their distribution. Trusts can be used for various purposes, such as providing for minor children, supporting family members with special needs, or minimizing estate taxes.
  • Tax Planning: Legacy planning often involves strategies to minimize tax liabilities associated with the transfer of assets. This may include taking advantage of tax-efficient investment strategies, gift and estate tax planning, and utilizing available tax exemptions.
  • Insurance Planning: Life insurance can be a crucial component of legacy planning, providing a source of funds for beneficiaries and helping to cover estate taxes or other liabilities.
  • Charitable Giving: Legacy planning may also include provisions for charitable giving, allowing individuals to support causes they care about while potentially reducing their taxable estate.
  • Succession Planning for Businesses: For business owners, legacy planning may involve developing a strategy for the smooth transition of the business to the next generation or new ownership.
  • Education & Communication: Clearly communicating one's wishes to family members and heirs is an essential aspect of legacy planning. This can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts among beneficiaries.

Understanding the Concept of Legacy
The idea of a “legacy” is not just confined to financial assets though; it is something that encompasses your values, principles and the impact you wish to have on the world. You can start thinking about your own legacy simply by reflecting on what matters most to you beyond monetary success. What causes or values resonate with your life's journey? How do you want to be remembered? Who do you want to be a part of that journey after you are gone? Legacy is the narrative of your life, and understanding your desires around it is the first step toward shaping it more intentionally.

Identifying Your Legacy: Getting Started
Start by envisioning the impact you wish to leave on future generations. Consider the values you want to instill, the causes you want to support and the lessons you want to impart. Reflect on the positive change you hope your wealth will bring to the world. Jot down your thoughts and aspirations, creating a foundation for the tangible elements of your legacy plan.

Memorializing Your Legacy: Putting It in Writing
To ensure the longevity and clarity of your legacy, consider documenting it in writing. Craft a mission statement or a personal legacy document that encapsulates your values, goals and aspirations. This document serves as a guiding light for your family and future advisors, providing a roadmap for the implementation of your legacy plan.

Talking About Legacy with Your Family
Legacy planning is a family affair. Initiate open and honest conversations with your loved ones about the concept of legacy. Discuss your values, aspirations and the impact you hope your wealth will have on their lives and the community. Encourage family members to share their perspectives, fostering a collective vision that aligns with your family's identity.

Key Next Steps With A Financial Advisor
Collaborating with a financial advisor is instrumental in translating your aspirations into a concrete legacy plan. Here are key steps to take with your advisor:

  1. Legacy Planning Consultation: Schedule a dedicated session with your financial advisor to discuss your vision for legacy. Share your documented aspirations and discuss the elements you wish to include in your legacy plan.
  2. Financial Assessment: Evaluate your current financial situation and discuss potential strategies to align your wealth with your legacy goals. This may involve estate planning, philanthropic initiatives or setting up trusts.
  3. Legal Considerations: Work with your advisor to address legal aspects, such as wills, trusts and any necessary legal documentation to ensure your legacy plan is robust and aligned with your intentions.
  4. Implementation Roadmap: Develop a step-by-step implementation roadmap with your financial advisor. This should include specific actions, timelines and milestones to bring your legacy plan to life.
  5. Regular Review and Adaptation: Legacy planning is dynamic. Regularly review and adapt your plan as circumstances change. This ensures that your legacy remains relevant and aligned with your evolving values and aspirations.

Leaving a legacy is a profound journey that goes beyond financial transactions. It's a testament to the values, wisdom and positive impact you wish to imprint on the world.

But remember: Legacy planning is a dynamic process that should be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changes in personal circumstances, tax laws and financial goals. Consulting with financial advisors, estate planning attorneys and other professionals can be crucial in developing a robust and effective legacy plan tailored to individual needs and objectives.

Your legacy is a gift to the future – let's ensure it reflects the very best of who you are and what you stand for.


Note: The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Jeff Green and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions, or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Every investor’s situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon before making any investment. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of the strategy selected, including diversification and asset allocation. The foregoing is not a recommendation to buy or sell any individual security or any combination of securities. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. Be sure to contact a qualified professional regarding your particular situation before making any investment or withdrawal decision.