Our Founder


Our Founder

Jim Smyth, Founder of The Family Trust Institute
Jim Smyth, founder of The Family Trust Institute, is a 1979 graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s Law School and Graduate School of Business. He served as the associate editor of the Notre Dame Law Review.

Following his academic career, Jim spent 14 years honing his skills, initially focusing on taxes for Coopers & Lybrand, P.C. and then as an independent corporate acquisition specialist and business consultant. During this time, his focus was on:

  • Individual and business taxation
  • Corporate formation
  • Development and government compliance
  • Business entity/asset sales and acquisitions
  • Contracts
  • Employment issues

Family Legacy Influences Direction

In 1995, Jim opened his own law practice with a focus on income and estate tax coordination and sophisticated planning.

Born into a family of significant wealth, Jim has seen the good and bad effect that wealth can have on heirs and communities. His “G3” perspective is valued by wealth-builders and their families.

Beginning in 2000, Jim experienced the tragedy of seeing his own family destroyed by bitterness after the death of his grandmother. This event transformed his approach and led to his expertise, process and tools in facilitating harmony between wealth and purpose.

After years of research and skill development, Jim concluded that the many studies done in this area of legacy and estate planning are true- financial and legal technical planning, while important, does not prepare families, heirs or advisors for the inevitable human challenges of wealth. He realized that his own legacy as a counsellor is defined by the success of his clients and their families, many of whom now communicate more deeply because of his firm’s work. He has dedicated his life to protect families and communities from the tragic waste and pain of failed transition. From this work and association with many other professionals comes The Family Trust Institute’s powerful multi-generational support platform.


Personal, Professional & Community Commitment

Jim is a member of both the Indiana Bar and Michigan Bar Associations. He has enjoyed membership in numerous charitable and professional organizations, including:

  • Johns Hopkins Hospital, Department of Neurosurgury, served as Advisory Board Member, 2008 – 2013
  • Duke University Catholic Center, served as Advisory Board Member, 2007 – 2012
  • Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana, Board Member, Planned Giving Council, Since 2009
  • National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys
  • Wealth Counsel Network
  • Renaissance Advisors
  • The Family Firm Institute
  • Attorneys for Family Held Enterprise
  • Legacy Planning
  • Inknowvision
  • 360 Practices
  • Fortress Attorney Advisors
  • Family Firm Institute
  • Advisors in Philanthropy
  • Family Office Exchange
  • Sudden Money Institute
  • Wealth Counsel Group of Attorneys
  • National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys

Jim combines a personal commitment to family and values with an appreciation for the dignity and uniqueness of each family and individual’s journey. Jim’s professional background informs his ability to align family and advisor capabilities for success. His legal approach is unique in the way it honors intangible wealth and re-contextualizes material wealth in documents and plans. He welcomes and encourages an integrated team approach.


Enhance Preparedness — Facilitate Communication — Ease Transitions

Jim Smyth assists families, family businesses and trustee-beneficiary relationships that are in trouble or, without agreement, may be headed for trouble. His Legacy Lifeboat process combines years of unique experience and tools to:

  • Enhance family harmony, family preparedness for change and heir preparedness;
  • Facilitate sustainable communication skills and practices, adjustment to change, difficult conversations, family agreement and alignment, heir responsibility and growth; and…
  • Ease business, family and estate transitions

Jim combines strategic knowledge and nationwide alliances to provide unique business and personal planning solutions. Advanced tax alternatives and creditor protection are key components of his services.

With strong Christian and family values as a foundation, Jim Smyth helps clients broaden their perspectives and multiply their human and financial potential through comprehensive income and estate planning strategies.

Learn more: Our Difference From Traditional Estate Planning


Our Value to You

The Family Trust Institute brings value in several ways to those we serve. As global estate planning advisers, the information, training, consultation, products and services we offer provide several types of estate planning and administrative assistance:

  • Save you money
  • Keep you in control of your advisory team
  • Asset protection
  • Family strength
  • Heir readiness
  • Your definition of estate planning
  • Better understanding of your legacy, priorities, family, true wealth
  • Personal advice
  • Unique experiences
  • Connections, tools, and resources

Learn More:
About Family Trust Institute
About Our Difference