Estate Planning
November 2, 2023

Ultra High Net Worth Estate Planning: 5 Important Things to Remember

Stewart Willis

Ultra-high net worth estate planning is a complex task that requires careful consideration and attention to detail. Given the size, diversity, and complexity of assets, the potential tax implications, and your individual needs and goals, estate planning must be done with the utmost care.

Consider this guidance for estate planning for ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

1. Succession and Legacy Planning

Ultra-high net worth estate planning should also consider the businesses you own. This ensures a smooth transition of ownership and operations, safeguarding the business's future success.

Without a succession plan, the business may face significant challenges when you retire, sell, or, unfortunately, pass away. A comprehensive succession plan should address key aspects such as identifying potential successors, outlining their roles and responsibilities, establishing clear communication channels, and providing adequate training and support.

Additionally, it should consider tax implications, legal considerations, and any specific industry or market dynamics that may impact the transition process.

By taking proactive steps towards succession planning in your estate planning as an ultra-high-net-worth individual, you demonstrate commitment to long-term sustainability and protect stakeholders' interests, such as employees, customers, suppliers, and shareholders.

2. Philanthropy and Charitable Giving Options

Philanthropy has become an integral part of ultra high net worth legacy planning. You can engage in charitable giving directly or through vehicles such as charitable trusts or foundations. This not only allows you to support causes that are close to your heart, but also provides you with potential tax benefits.

Estate planning for high-net-worth individuals who want to contribute to philanthropic causes may include establishing a private foundation. However, you should also explore the option of donor-advised funds, which offer a simpler alternative with substantial tax advantages. This allows you to make charitable contributions while enjoying significant tax benefits hassle-free.

Charitable lead trusts are an excellent tool for ultra-high-net-worth estate planning. You can make a positive impact through philanthropic donations while ensuring loved ones are cared for financially. By designating a certain period for income to be provided to a charity, the remaining assets can be passed on to beneficiaries, creating a win-win situation.

3. Living Trusts Protect Your Privacy

Ultra-high-net-worth estate planning should include confidentiality to protect assets and avoid having your private affairs on public record. Revocable trusts provide a legal framework that allows you to transfer their assets to a designated trustee, who will manage and distribute them according to the specified terms.

By utilizing trusts in estate planning, high-net-worth individuals can ensure their estate remains private and shielded from public scrutiny.

One significant advantage of using trusts is the ability to avoid probate. Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person's assets are distributed and debts are settled. It can be time-consuming, costly, and open personal information to public records. By establishing a trust, you can bypass probate entirely or significantly reduce its impact on their estate.

Moreover, trusts offer flexibility in terms of asset management and distribution. They allow for detailed instructions on how assets should be handled during one's lifetime and after death. This level of control ensures that privacy is maintained while providing peace of mind, knowing that your wishes will be carried out according to your specific instructions.

4. Tax Considerations

Tax considerations for ultra-high net worth estate planning are complicated. Because of the sheer wealth, you could provide for multiple generations of heirs. This means you must pay generation-skipping transfer taxes when you transfer property to grandchildren or great-grandchildren. This tax is calculated at 40% of the asset’s value.

Closeup of two people discussing financial plans and estate planning

However, there is only a tax exemption of up to $12.92 million for 2023. The purpose of this tax is to prevent grantors, who create trusts, from circumventing their tax responsibilities and neglecting the next generation.

5. Get Clear on Objectives

These objectives can vary greatly depending on your needs. Do you want to provide for heirs? What about reducing estate taxes or supporting charitable causes? By clarifying these goals upfront with your estate planner for high-net-worth individuals, you'll get a comprehensive plan that aligns with your objectives.

Estate planning for high-net-worth families needs to consider their family dynamics. You are likely planning for multiple generations — and you will want future generations to be educated about their financial status.

At Asset Preservation, our approach is rooted in understanding and addressing your unique goals. Gaining a deep understanding of your objectives will allow us to create a customized financial plan that maximizes wealth preservation and achieves long-term success.

Working with a partner experienced in estate planning strategies that benefit family members simply makes sense. We work with a diverse group of professionals, from estate planning attorneys to certified tax professionals, to give you personalized advice and guidance that can make a real difference in terms of results.

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Stewart Willis is the founder and president of Asset Preservation Wealth & Tax, a financial planning firm in Phoenix, Arizona. Investment advisory services offered through Foundations Investment Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser.

The commentary on this blog reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints and analyses of the author, Stewart Willis, providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by Foundations Investment Advisors, LLC (“Foundations”), an SEC registered investment adviser or performance returns of any Foundations client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment, legal or tax advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Personal investment advice can only be rendered after the engagement of Foundations for services, execution of required documentation, including receipt of required disclosures. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Foundations manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Any statistical data or information obtained from or prepared by third party sources that Foundations deems reliable but in no way does Foundations guarantee the accuracy or completeness. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Any past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Foundations and its advisors are properly licensed or exempted. For more information, please go to and search by our firm name or by our CRD # 175083.

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