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Values, Vision And A Promise: Atlantic Trust Says Family Legacy Planning Is About More Than Money

Ethical wills are one tool that ensure not only the transfer of wealth, but also of important family values and ideals

ATLANTA, May 8, 2014 /PRNewswire/ - When it comes to the transfer of assets from one generation to the next, Atlantic Trust, the U.S. private wealth management division of CIBC (NYSE: CM) (TSX: CM), says the most important goal - and often the biggest challenge - in family legacy planning is defining values and priorities that will shape a family's future and protect their wealth.

"Family legacy planning is about more than money," says Judith Saxe, managing director at Atlantic Trust. "It's a way of helping parents discuss sometimes uncomfortable issues of wealth, estate or legacy planning with their children, especially if they're worried that wealth will destroy their children's motivation or desire to excel or match their parents' financial success."

Having intentional and purposeful conversations about the things that sustain and enrich the family - things that have little to do with material wealth - will help family members define not only what their assets are, but also what their wealth really means in the big picture, says Saxe.

After examining the family's assets, the first step in the legacy planning process is to develop a family mission or vision statement that spells out shared values and describes how the family's wealth should be used to support and further the family's legacy. Although this vision statement can evolve over time, it fulfills at the outset a primary objective that many first-generation wealth creators have when thinking about legacy: providing clarity and inspiration for the generations that will follow them.

"Each family will define those goals and values differently," says Saxe. "For some, it means ensuring the well-being of future generations, while allowing them to leave their own imprint on the family wealth. Others may wish to tell and preserve a story about how that wealth was built over time. Or, there may be a philanthropic component as a vehicle for preserving a specific philosophy or set of values."

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