About James W. Smyth, MBA, JD

Jim Smyth, founder of The Family Trust Institute, is a 1979 graduate of the University of Notre Dame 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 concentration 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 counselor 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.

A Passion to help individuals and families fulfill their potential.

Jim strives to make a difference for families who choose to integrate best legal and heritage practices.

Jim represents a successful alternative to undesirable outcomes after you are gone: family fights, wasted community potential, hard feelings and the terrible waste of unprepared heirs. These are the rule rather than the exception....and this is unacceptable to us. He is not a money manager or insurance rep. He is an attorney with decades of focused estate-planning experience working with other lawyers, solicitors and professionals. His passion is to provide a global platform to strengthen families and cooperating advisors. His legacy is to strengthen your potential and your family's human capital leverage for the benefit of future generations. His fervent belief is that his enemies and yours are the stale way of doing things, the success of litigators, news people and others who prey on the tragedies that too frequently follow family and individual heir failures. For Jim, whatever he can do to leverage your capacity individually and as family, he will be doing. Don't let your parents or grandparents pass before he can help you capture and protect their love and lessons.

Jim can help you adopt heritage practices that enhance the blessing of your life’s work to family well-being for generations to come.

Learn more on FamilyTrust.com: Personal and Business Planning Services

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, ajdustment 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 on FamilyTrust.com: Our Difference From Traditional Estate Planning

Community Service with a Personal Touch

On top of Jim's busy workload, he devotes much of his free time (what little he has of it,) to working for and with the Autistic Spectrum Disorder community to promote awareness, acceptance, and the presumption of competence for nonverbal autistic individuals. His son John, now 22 years old and attending college at Marian University in Indianapolis, has been nonverbal since the age of 2. John's journey out of silence and isolation is an incredible story, which is best told in his own words. Read the essay he wrote in December, 2013 called An Amazing Autism Story, in which he describes the trials and tribulations he and his family encountered and overcame in his fight for an education and acceptance. (PDF opens in new window)

In August of 2013, John and his typing friends, with help of his dad and other parents, began an organization he called Saved by Typing (SBT). The group would meet on the 3rd Saturday of every month to celebrate being together while typing to communicate with each other. They would share their lives and answer questions to open the possibilities for other nonverbals.  John said, "It is great fun for us to see each other, and we invite other nonverbals and their parents, doctors, aides, teachers and you, the general public, to see how real our communication is."

Since then, SBT has expanded it's mission to:

  1. Advocate for the rights of the ASD community and nonverbal disabled individuals,
  2. Promote the validity and use of the technique called Facilitated Communication (FC, also known as Supported Typing,) to provide nonverbal autistics a method of communication, and
  3. Provide FC training for typers and their support personnel, as well as to help develop and improve the skills of FC coaches and trainers.

To learn more about this great organization, visit the Saved By Typing website. (opens in new window)