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How Do You Define Legacy?

How Do You Define Legacy?

March 2024

Author: Trent Burley

At the end of 2025, the current income and estate tax legislation, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is set to sunset back to pre-2018 levels, adjusted for inflation. From a legacy planning perspective, this means the amount of wealth we can transfer to future generations either during our lifetime or at our passing will reduce from $13.61 million per person ($27.22 million per couple) to around a projected $7 million per person ($14 million per couple). The next 20 months create an opportunity for people who are currently above this level or projecting to grow about this level to evaluate strategies that mitigate or eliminate their future estate tax liability.

Estate planning is often viewed through the lens of financial and legal mechanisms—wills, trusts, taxes, and inheritance laws. However, at its core, estate planning is deeply intertwined with the preservation of family values and the transmission of a family's legacy to future generations. By starting the estate planning process centered around their “why”, families can ensure that their values and mission are reflected in their decisions then use those mechanisms to prepare for pending tax changes, and ultimately get the right assets to the right people at the right time.

Preserving Family Values and Mission

Estate planning offers a unique opportunity to embed family values and missions into the fabric of financial and legal structures. This process begins with conversations that may seem difficult at first but are essential for understanding the collective vision of a family. Whether it's supporting charitable causes, funding education for future generations, or ensuring the longevity of a family business, estate planning can tailor strategies that reflect these values. By starting early, families have the time to discuss, refine, and implement these visions effectively.

Ensuring the Right Assets Go to the Right People at the Right Time

One of the primary goals of estate planning is to ensure that assets are distributed according to the wishes of the estate holder, in a manner that is timely and aligns with the family’s values and goals. Starting the estate planning process early facilitates this in several ways. First, it allows for the detailed documentation of wishes regarding asset distribution, reducing the potential for disputes among beneficiaries. Secondly, it enables the use of trusts and other tools to control the timing and conditions of asset transfer, ensuring beneficiaries are mature and prepared to manage their inheritances responsibly.

Anticipating and Preparing for Tax Changes

Tax laws are never static; they evolve in response to legislative changes and economic shifts. Pending tax changes can significantly impact estate planning strategies, potentially affecting how assets are taxed upon transfer. Early estate planning allows families to stay ahead of these changes, employing strategies such as charitable giving, establishing trusts, or transferring assets during the lifetime of the estate holder to minimize tax liabilities. As the current and future generations continue to monitor and evaluate the legacy plan amid potential changes, having a clearly defined set of family values and mission statement allows for the plan to be adjusted as legislation dictates, but keeps the core purpose intact.


My grandpa Tom was a farmer. While I’m sure he utilized financial and legal mechanisms to successfully transition the farm to my uncles, the values he projected continue throughout the family. It means a lot to me to be able to name our son, Tommy, after him. As Tommy gets older, I can’t wait to reinforce that his namesake is rooted in putting your family ahead of yourself, working hard, and keeping your word.

Toy tractor

The process of estate planning extends beyond just asset distribution; it is a profound opportunity to reinforce family values, prepare for the future, and ensure that a family's legacy endures. By starting early, families can navigate the complexities of tax laws, articulate their mission, and set up a thoughtful, values-driven plan for asset distribution. This proactive approach not only secures a family’s financial future but also strengthens the bonds that tie its members together, ensuring that their shared values continue to impact the world positively long after they're gone.

The opinions expressed are those of McGill Junge Wealth Management as of the date stated on this communication and are subject to change. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. This material does not constitute investment advice and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment or security. Please remember that all investments carry some level of risk, including the potential loss of principal invested. Indexes and/or benchmarks are unmanaged and cannot be invested in directly. Returns represent past performance, are not a guarantee of future performance and are not indicative of any specific investment. Diversification and strategic asset allocation do not assure profit or protect against loss.

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