What We Can Learn From the Kennedy Trusts

While I was up in the San Francisco Bay Area last week, I sat and watched the moving memorial of Senator Ted Kennedy.  Whether you agreed with his politics, the recent death of Ted Kennedy has given us an opportunity to reflect on the unique nature of trusts not only as a tool to protect assets for future generations, but also as a way to leave a lasting legacy for your children and grandchildren.

The Kennedy trust—or Kennedy trusts, we should say—are some of the best examples of how comprehensive and versatile trusts can be, as this article by Gerald Posner illustrates. The trusts were first established by Joe Kennedy; one in 1926, another in 1936, and another in 1949. Each trust had its own unique purpose: the trust established in 1926 was for Rose and the children, whereas the trust established in 1949 was intended for his grandchildren. Furthermore, each trust was set up as a blind trust, designed to act independently from any other trust.

The Kennedy trusts were built to last, with each successive trustee working to provide for the beneficiaries while protecting the principal for future generations as well. And last they have, to the extent that today—even taking the recent economic downturn into account—the trusts have survived… and even flourished in some cases.

You don’t have to be a Kennedy to leave a legacy for your children or grandchildren. The Kennedys certainly had a financial head start, but trusts can be designed to protect and build on even a modest estate. Whether your desire is to provide for your immediate heirs, or leave a legacy that lasts far into the future, a trust can help you accomplish your goal.