Our Founder

James W. Smyth, MBA, JD

james-w-smyth-250x250Jim 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 concentration was on:

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

Curriculum Vitae

1979: Notre Dame Law School (JD); Graduate School of Business (MBA); Associate Editor of the Notre Dame Law Review

1978-1981: Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers), Tax Specialist; individual and business taxation, corporate formation, development and government compliance, business entity/asset sale and acquisition, contracts, and employment issues

1981-1995: James W. Smyth, corporate acquisition and startup investor/advisory specialist, with special focus on early stage licensing, internet, distribution, and real estate

1996-2003, 2006-2011*: Law Offices of Crotty & Smyth; estate planning, tax planning, executive compensation, profit sharing & stock option planning, business sales, mergers, acquisitions, creditor protection

2011-Present: James W. Smyth, Attorney at Law; d.b.a.:
Smyth Legal
Indiana Estate Attorney
Family Trust Institute

2015-Present: Custom Structured Settlements, LLC, Executive Director

* Between 2003-2006, Jim worked with a number of other attorneys while his partner, Patrick Crotty, was on sabbatical.

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.

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
  • 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
  • Attorneys for Family Held Enterprise

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 to help:

  • Save you money
  • Keep you in control of your advisory team
  • Asset protection
  • Maintain and improve family strength
  • Increase heir readiness
  • Define and focus your estate planning
  • Better understand your legacy, priorities, family, true wealth
  • Provide personal advice
  • Discover unique experiences
  • Provide connections, tools, and resources to protect your legacy

Want More Information?

Have questions about our services? Want to learn more about how to build and maintain your wealth, protect your family's legacy for future generations, and reduce your estate and capital gains taxes?

Then call The Family Trust Institute at (317) 843-5566. You'll be glad you did!