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 /CNW/ - 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."

To bring that vision to life, families should look beyond the standard legal documentation (wills, trusts and philanthropic vehicles). Creating an ethical will that complements a traditional will can ensure that wealth owners not only transfer what they have, but also what they know. An ethical will can also set the stage for a deeper conversation about the greater purpose behind what's contained in those other legacy documents. A letter to trustees can also be useful for bridging the gap between the legal statements made in a trust document and the richness of perspective on a wealth owner's intent that only that person can provide. Writing the family story also helps to crystallize the values and vision of people who created the wealth in the family.

Thoughtful and discerning affluent families understand that they have an enormous responsibility to create the framework for a family legacy plan that promotes family continuity, manages change within the family and articulates clear roles for all of the wealth owners in the family, says Saxe.

"If done well, identifying these issues may be what makes estate planning's legal and tax provisions understandable and meaningful," she says.

For more family legacy planning tools, visit Atlantic Trust's Online Resource Center, or download "Legacy Planning: It's Not Just About the Money" at

About Atlantic Trust

Atlantic Trust is one of the nation's leading private wealth management firms, offering integrated wealth management for high net worth individuals, families, foundations and endowments. The firm considers clients' financial, trust, estate planning and philanthropic needs in developing customized asset allocation and investment management strategies. Experienced professionals deliver a broad range of solutions, including proprietary investment offerings and a robust open architecture platform of traditional and alternative managers. Atlantic Trust operates in 12 full-service locations throughout the U.S. with $24.0 billion in assets under management (as of December 31, 2013). For more information, visit

About CIBC

CIBC is a leading Canadian-based global financial institution. Through our Retail and Business Banking, Wealth Management and Wholesale Banking businesses, CIBC provides a full range of financial products to individual, small business, commercial, corporate and institutional clients in Canada and around the world.

CIBC Wealth Management provides relationship-based advisory services and an extensive suite of leading investment solutions to meet the needs of personal, institutional and high-net-worth clients through an extensive distribution network, that includes CIBC Private Wealth Management, CIBC Wood Gundy and CIBC Investor's Edge. Our asset management, retail brokerage and private wealth management businesses combine to create an integrated offer, delivered through nearly 1,500 advisors across Canada. In addition, CIBC Asset Management provides global money manager services to institutional and high-net-worth clients and industry-leading retail investment solutions through our two mutual fund families—CIBC and Renaissance—and the CIBC family of managed portfolio solutions.

SOURCE: Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

For further information:

Media inquiries: Caroline Van Hasselt, Director, CIBC External Communications and Media Relations, (416) 784-6699, or Carolyn Donnelly, Atlantic Trust Director of Marketing, (404) 881-3417,


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