Aside from his genius, Steve Jobs had two characteristics that have been repeatedly highlighted by the press since his death: he was a meticulous planner and he was an intensely private man with regard to his personal life.
Not surprisingly, these qualities appear to have combined in Jobs’ estate planning. Unlike other well-known people who have died in recent years, it looks like Steve Jobs had a solid plan in place to accomplish his final wishes. We’ll probably never know the details of those final wishes, because part of his plan was to guard his family’s privacy zealously.
I have written here of how other famously wealthy people, such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, have decided to leave a legacy through philanthropy. While interested in charitable endeavors, Steve Jobs reportedly declined to make such a public commitment. He preferred to keep his private life just that, private.
That’s why, at first blush, it seems out of character that the fiercely private Jobs gave Walter Isaacson carte blanche to write his authorized biography. Until you learn the reason behind Jobs’ decision. According to Isaacson, Steve Jobs approved of the biography and participated in a series of interviews with the author because he wanted his kids to know him and understand why he had not always been there for them. In other words, always the planner, Jobs used the biography as one way to leave his kids a priceless, non-financial legacy.
Most people do not approach estate planning in the big-picture way Steve Jobs did. I would be willing to bet that many estate planning attorneys do not encourage their clients to take a broad view when it comes to leaving a non-financial legacy. Until very recently, this approach just has not been on the radar screen for most estate planning attorneys.
Do you venture beyond financial issues to counsel clients on how to use planning strategies to make sure their kids and grandkids know them, or otherwise encourage them to leave a non-financial legacy? If you do, how do your clients respond? What are the most successful strategies you’ve found for helping your clients leave a non-financial legacy?
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M. (Tax)
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128