Leaving your best legacy

Concerned about what you will leave behind you when you die is an inescapable element of the human condition. What sort of legacy will you leave? How will you be remembered? How do you ensure that your loved ones are provided for, not only to profit from your success but to actually learn from it? All of these questions, and in particular the last one, are addressed by Andrew Howell and David York in Entrusted: Building a Legacy That Lasts.

The authors, both lawyers with extensive experience in estate planning, wrote Entrusted to counteract what they see as bad practice in contemporary estate planning. Most high net-worth individuals want to prevent raising a generation of entitled trust-fund babies, but conventional wisdom on estate planning tends to accomplish exactly that.

York and Howell characterize current estate planning models as “dump, divide, defer, and dissipate,” a surefire way to have your legacy wiped out in a generation or two. They take a more holistic, somewhat philosophical, approach as an alternative to the current model.

The book is very focused on expanding two common concepts in estate planning— wealth and family. York and Howell broaden out the definition of wealth to include more than just liquid assets and real estate. Wealth, in their holistic understanding, includes the legacy of skills, wisdom, and character that you leave behind. Family, as well, is considered more holistically to include both immediate relations and close friends and beneficiaries.

The book is then built around seven core disciplines of entrusted families. They range from “Entrusted families know who they are and what they believe” to “Entrusted families design and implement dynamic governance.” The central focus of Entrusted is to transfer the skills and responsibility needed for wealth creation to the next generation, instead of simply signing them a check. Or to use the book’s terms to “focus on flint and kindling and not on the fire.”

The authors do a good job defining their terms and making distinctions. The writing is clear and readable, although the book is a bit slim. York and Howell try to walk the fine line between platitudinous inspirational quote material and unreadable legalese. They mostly succeed. There’s plenty of wisdom as well as actionable advice packed into the book, but it definitely feels a bit heavy on the anecdotes.

Overall though, Entrusted is thought-provoking. Whether you’re already pondering what you’ll leave behind or haven’t given the subject a single thought, you will definitely have a broader understanding and richer appreciation of good estate planning after reading this book.

Entrusted: Building a Legacy That Lasts is available for purchase here.

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