What is a Family of Affinity?

Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations

is the American version of a Lancashire proverb, “there’s nobbut three generations atween a clog and clog.

Many have attributed Andrew Carnegie, the famed 19th century industrialist from Scottland, with bringing the proverb’s message to America. Investigation shows that the adage is ancient and not unique to any one country or culture. In Italian it is “dalle stalle alle stelle alle stalle” (“from stalls to stars to stalls”). The Spanish say, “quien no lo tiene, lo hance; y quien lo tiene, lo deshance” (“who doesn’t have it, does it, and who has it, misuses it”). Even non-western cultures, including the Chinese, have a similar proverb, “rice paddy to rice paddy.” Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves is a proverb that describes human behavior’s natural tendency in terms of creating long-term families as financial failures.


The theory of the proverb is that the first generation starts off in a rice paddy, meaning that two people with an affinity for one another came together and worked from the bottom to create a financial fortune.  The original generation usually builds their wealth without making significant changes to their values, customs, or lifestyle.  The second generation moves to the city, embraces the hottest fashions, patronizes the opera, runs large organizations and the fortune plateaus.  The third generation, with no experience in building or maintaining wealth, consumes the financial fortune, and the fourth generation goes back to the rice paddy.  This is the classic formulation of the shirtsleeves proverb, which remains as true today as it has proven to be throughout documented human history.

When considering long-term legacy planning, what is often referred to as seventh-generational thinking comes into play.  Seventh generational thinking can be illustrated by an antidote from an old Iroquois tribal elder, who begins the tribal council meeting by saying,

“Let us begin our work here today with the hope that the decisions we make will be honored by our tribal members seven generations from today.”

James E. Hughes, Jr., an attorney, author and multi-generational family advisor, defines a family as two or more people who by either genetic lineage or bonds of affinity consider themselves related to each other.  The core of his philosophy is the belief that a family that sees itself as linked not only by blood but by affinity and acts from that philosophical base has the greatest chance of successfully enhancing the individual development and growth of its members and thus of dynamically preserving the family as a whole for at least five generations.  A family of affinity maintains open systems that welcome new members, giving the family a better chance of survival.  These outsiders represent the new energy the family needs to overcome what it will lose through natural attrition.

Note that Attorney Hughes suggest that relying solely on the biological constituents of a family will lead to attrition and a weakening of the family unit and wealth over time.  Creating an open-source family unit enthusiastically embracing new members through marriage and other bonds of affinity are vital.  When counting a family’s assets they are represented by the individual members of the family of affinity:

  • The family’s human capital
  • The family’s intellectual capital
  • The family’s financial capital
  • The family’s social capital

A family with long-term seventh generational thinking will have a 100-Year Plan to manage and capitalize on the family’s core assets listed above.

If you feel your family is a family of affinity:

Have you crafted a written Family Mission Statement as the guiding expression of the vision, values and goals of the family? and

Have you embraced seventh-generational thinking and begun to work on a 100-Year Plan?


Donald L. West, Jr., JD, CTLP,  serves as the Associate Director of Education to the Legacy Institute, is a Chartered Legacy & Trusts Planner, a Personne De Confiance, the Creator of the Legacy Pyramid and co-author of A Step-By-Step Guide To Crafting Personal Legacy Statements.

The Legacy Institute, (A.I.L.E.P.), is an organization devoted to empowering families and closely-held business entities cultivate multi-generational connectedness, growth and prosperity.


What Does Legacy Mean? Peyton Manning says he doesn’t really know.

Peyton Manning says he doesn’t know what Legacy means, do you?

At the NFL’s 2014 Media Day for Super Bowl XLVIII the Denver Broncos record-setting
quarterback was asked about his legacy, which he basically declined to speak about.

I’ve been asked about my legacy since I was about 25 years old, which I’m not sure you can have a legacy when you’re 25 years old or even 37,” Manning said.  “I thought you had to be like 70 to have a legacy.  I’m not 100 percent sure what the word even means.”

Below you can actually take a look for yourself if you did not see the actual interview:

So here is the actual dictionary definitionLegacy – noun:  something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.

According to the renowned psychotherapist Erik K. Erickson, Peyton Manning is normal and just like almost every other person when it comes to the timing and age of internalizing and understanding our legacy and our connection to those who will come behind us.

Erikson who is most famous for coining the phrase “Identity Crisis” also gave us the term “Generativity” as the 7th of 8 Stages of Human Development Generativity vs. Stagnation which occurs between the ages of 35-64.

Generativity is the ability to generate anything tangible that will exist beyond one’s earthly life; particularly when exhibiting a need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation.  The adult stage of generativity has broad application to family, relationships, work, and society.  Eriskson said, “Generativity, then is primarily the concern in establishing and guiding the next generation… the concept is meant to include… productivity and creativity.”

There are five primary categories of Generativity, they are:

1) Biological – the act of making a child;

2) Parental – the act of raising a child;

3) Technical – the creation of tangible works that will maintain an existence beyond your life, (i.e., paintings, writings, or a business organization);

4) Cultural – the creational of a meaning belief or value system that is passed on to others; and,

5) Societal – the ability to create societal change and/or reform, (i.e., Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., et. al.).

Now we have covered Legacy and thrown in Generativety as a bonus, which begs the question, “What is Your Legacy?”

What is an Estate?

Everything you own constitutes your estate.

Everything you own constitutes your estate.

There is a common misbelief that “estates” are something that only the rich and famous possess. This misconception is possible because most people have no idea what constitutes an estate to begin with. On TV and in the movies the term estate is only used to describe or reference the rich and the wealthy, often describing huge lavish property and elegant decorations. In fact, any property, no matter how small or large, humble or extravagant is part of an estate. Land, condos, duplexes, townhomes, apartments and the single family home all make up people’s estates.

Simply put, an estate is everything that a person owns. It includes your favorite guitar, your collection of family photographs, your residence, cash, stocks, bonds, and other investments, retirement plans and businesses you own. If you are a creator, your estate includes all your works, including your paintings, drawings, prints, manuscripts, copyrights, trademarks and patents. For estate tax purposes, your estate also includes all life insurance policies in your name as well as your IRA’s or other retirement accounts. So again, your estate includes everything that you own, this includes all of your personal property, such as vehicles, jewelry, collectables and other treasured items.

Your estate is everything that you own. You own things, so congratulations… you have an estate.


Donald L. West, Jr., JD, CTLP,  serves as the Associate Director of Education to the Legacy Institute, is a Chartered Legacy & Trusts Planner, a Personne De Confiance, the Creator of the Legacy Pyramid and co-author of A Step-By-Step Guide To Crafting Personal Legacy Statements.

The Legacy Institute, (A.I.L.E.P.), is an organization devoted to empowering families and closely-held business entities cultivate multi-generational connectedness, growth and prosperity.

5 Tips for Donors to Non-Profit Organizations – Due Diligence of a 501(C)3 Organization

Most of us value our money, due in no small part to the understanding of what was done to earn it. Yet when it comes to giving our money away to charitable organizations even the wealthiest and most generous donors among us often fail to apply the same level of due diligence typically applied on a routine basis to most business transactions. Acknowledging this fact in an article for Forbes.com, Betsy Brill, a planned-giving consultant, noted:

Over two-thirds of wealthy households surveyed for Bank of America’s 2010 study of high net worth philanthropy reported that they give to organizations when they believe their gift will make a difference and when they know the organization is efficient in its use of donations. However, a much smaller percentage of donors actually conduct the extensive research necessary to accurately make these determinations. For example, another 2010 donor survey–this one by nonprofit consultancy Russ Reid–showed that only one-third of donors actually talked to an organization’s staff before making a gift, and only one-quarter visited the organization in person or reviewed its annual report.

The non-profit sector has been impacted by the downturned global economy and despite heavy regulation and oversight; scandals and abuses grab headlines regularly making it incumbent upon the fiscally wise donor to follow these five best practice tips when vetting your next philanthropic beneficiary. There are lots of choices out there for most causes and new organizations are being formed every day. Making use of these five tips will place you among the philanthropic elite, those who are confident that they are investing and partnering with organizations that are effectively governed, transparent, accountable, fiscally responsible and aligned with their core values.

1 – Evaluate the Organization’s Mission. Every charitable organization has a mission and purpose for its existence. A large number of donors have expressed a strong preference for giving to causes that they themselves have an interest in or passion for. The logical first step is to review the mission and purpose of the organization you are considering or seeking one whose mission matches your interest(s) and passion(s).

2 – Review the programs and services the organization provides. It is important to see if the services and programs align with the organizations mission. Some donors may be interested in the types of programs and services offered. Ask if there are any tools in place to measure programming effectiveness or impact and request to see the most recent results. An actual on-site visit provides an opportunity to meet and observe the administrative staff and effectiveness of the programs and services.

3 – Confirm the Organizations Tax Exempt Status. If your donation is somehow connected or motivated by the tax benefit of a deductible gift you are advised to confirm the active status of the organization’s IRS Tax Exempt Status. For the IRS they have a public search portal located at:  http://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/.

4 – Review the Organization’s Annual Report. A great deal of insight and information may be gained from the annual report. Prior to making any significant securities acquisition the prudent investor typically reviews the annual report of the company in question evaluating certain indicators. Why then should we treat our philanthropic investments and partnerships any differently? Ask the organization for last year’s annual report or ask for the last couple of years for your review. There should be a goldmine of information regarding the organization’s operations, achievements and activities.

5 – Review the Organization’s most recent Form 990. Every tax-exempt organization is required to file a Form 990 annually with the IRS. The Form 990 contains all the information that the IRS requires and provides a quick snapshot of the organization’s full operation. When reviewed in conjunction to the annual report a well-rounded understanding may be developed of the operational structure, financial health and the programming activities of your targeted non-profit.

If an organization’s use of funds is an issue or concern for you and your gift, you may desire to add a review of the organization’s last Financial Audit. It will deliver a more complete picture and share a more precise insight into the financial operations of the organization. Lastly, if you are considering more than a simple one time gift and are truly seeking to build a long-term relationship with an organization ask if there is a strategic plan and a fundraising plan, and if you may review them. You may also seek to review the organization’s investment policy to insure the long term vision and strategies align with meaning and purposes of your gift.

Legacy & Genealogy Resource- Arlington National Cemetery Launches Burial Database

Arlington National Cemetery has unveiled a public database of the 400,000 burials there. Called ANC Explorer, the database is available online and as a Mobile app. You can search it to locate gravesites on a map; get details including birth, death and interment dates, and branch of service; generate front and back photos of a headstone or monument (where available); and get directions to those gravesites. Source: http://blog.familytreemagazine.com/insider/2012/10/23/ArlingtonNationalCemeteryLaunchesBurialDatabase.aspx

Spotted: Your Genetic Genealogist: “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” – DNA in the Tenth Episode

A blog dedicated to encouraging people to search their histories utilizing DNA research.

Your Genetic Genealogist: "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." – DNA in the Tenth Episode.

Four Building Blocks for Your Legacy Plan

By: Don West, Jr., @DonWestJr


To Will or Not to Will?

Probably because June is National Make-A-Will Month, (promoted by LegalZoom, and brilliant for our industry and the families we serve), I have been entertaining the question,

Is estate planning just having a Will?

Certainly for centuries, possibly for millenia, a Will has been about the only practical tool available for those interested in multi-generational strategic planning and wealth transfer. With regards to estate planning today, the field has grown to be one of the most technically demanding and comprehensive areas of the law. With the growth of the field there are now dozens upon dozens of tools and instruments to assist and customize your estate planning goals.

Because estate planning embodies actions associated and tied to your hopes, dreams and concerns for yourself and for your loved ones there are many examples throughout history that show the use of Wills & Trusts to deal with personal property all the way back to the Roman empire. Additionally, Wills are functionally spoken of in the Old Testament (in Genesis 48), where Jacob bequeaths to his son Joseph, a portion of his inheritance, double to that of his brethren. Personal trust law developed in England at the time of the Crusades, during the 12th and 13th centuries. So you may be asking, what about my Spiritual or Intangible Estate, those intangible things that truly matter, the stories and ideas that uniquely make me, me? That is what Legacy Planning is all about.

What is Legacy Planning?

Legacy Planning is a compliment to the estate planning process and focuses on the intangible assets a person or family posses. In short, Legacy Planning deals with gifts from the Soul. A critical element in the generation of a legacy is the ability to maintain a tangible presence beyond the actual span of one’s lifetime. While physical assets may be deemed a component of a person’s ultimate legacy, the focus on family or institutional history, values and the stories that define us dictates that every individual, family and entity can be enriched through implementing a strategic legacy plan.

It must be pointed out that the requirements of Legacy Planning place you on an inward spiritual journey. As such, comprehensive Legacy Planning is not for everyone, however, the four tools we discuss here can be utilized by any one who is seeking to improve their processes and development.

So let’s jump right in, here is a quick introduction to the Four Building Blocks of a Basic Personal Legacy Plan. They are:

#1 – Definite Chief Aim, Purpose and/or Vision;
#2 – Personal Mission Statement;
#3 – Personal Legacy Statement; and,
#4 – Strategic Life Plan


Definite Chief Aim, Purpose and/or Vision

Success requires a concentration of effort. Most people disperse their energies over too many things and so fail to develop to be outstanding in anything. In the words of new age thought pioneer Orison Swett Marden,

“The world does not demand that you be a lawyer, minister, doctor, farmer, scientist, or merchant; it does not dictate what you shall do, but it does require that you be a master in whatever you undertake.”

So to be successful, one must align their energy with their higher aims and goals and industriously pursue their realization.


Personal Mission Statement

Is a series of guiding principles strategically developed to guide both your daily and major life decisions. Best-Selling author and productivity-entrepreneur Stephen R. Covey is a pioneer in the area of Personal Mission Statements, here he is with concise guidance on how to develop your own:

If you are ready to get started on your personal mission statement, Covey’s company, FranklinCovey, offers an excellent free online tool.


Strategic Life Plan

Puts purpose and direction with quantifiable goals and objectives tied to your personal mission statement. This plan allows you to dream your perfect future and then develop the steps to actually achieve your desires. Blogger and Publishing guru Michael Hyatt has excellent free tool for Creating Your Personal Life Plan.


Personal Legacy Statement  Allows you to articulate what is closest to your heart. It creates a record of the messages and information to valuable too be lost and captures your reflections for the benefit of others as a timeless gift to future generations.


Decades from now, when your grandchildren peak to their grandchildren about you, what would you like them to share? Are there family traditions that you hold dear and hope that they continue for generations to come? How will future generations learn the origins and importance of those traditions? A Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Personal Legacy Statements helps you identify and generate responses to these questions and more. This is not a “how-to” book for writing a life story or family history, but a dynamic tool for sharing a legacy, your or your family’s legacy. Who and what have shaped your life? What do you value most? What do you want future generations to remember about you? A Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Personal Legacy Statements enables you to create powerful personalized messages to be shared at the time of your choosing during your life or after your time has passed.


Don West, Jr.

is a Personne De Confiance, the Creator of the Legacy Pyramid and co-author of A Step-By-Step Guide To Crafting Personal Legacy Statements. Don serves as the Associate Director of Education to the Legacy Institute and founder of Knock Out The Stigma, Inc. (“K.O.T.S.”) a 501(c)3 focused on mental health and offering the Well-Being EXchange an online community and marketplace supporting well-being.

To Will or Not To Will?

June is National Make-A-Will Month

By: Don West, Jr., @DonWestJr


Why do people write wills?


Is it because they have realized the multi-generational connection between themselves and their families? Every person is unique and will have their own motivations for laying plans that reach beyond this mortal walk. Perhaps they desire that no one in their family get a dime and want to leave it all to charity? Whatever the motivation for you, reports state that only 30% of Americans have taken the time to put their wishes down in writing. That is only 3 out of 10 people. Are you 1 of the 7 who have not made written plans for the future? What would it take for you to get a written plan in place by the end of this month? Would that be something of value to you and your family? If you are 1 of the 3 out of 10 who do have a written plan, when was the last time you checked it for accuracy? Is it time for a tune-up?


What exactly is a Will?


A Will or Last Will & Testament is a legal document usually requiring the signatures of witnesses and outlines the final distribution of your property and possessions, designating your wishes for who takes responsibility for your minor children and/or disabled dependents on the event of your passing, as well as other issues you desire to address.


Should everyone have a Will?


Not necessarily. I will is an often used tool, but there are a few things to consider when choosing if a will is right for your situation. A Will requires a process called Probate, which takes place in a Court and all the documents are public records. As you may recall was the case with Michael Jackson, his mother had to go to Court and ask permission to spend money and ultimately we all got to read and see what MJ did with his earthly wealth. Is Probate the only option? There are many ways that you can execute your plans, one of the most popular and well known after the will is Revocable Living Trust or Living Trust for short.


The Living Trust has its own distinguishing attributes including that it does not require Probate to transfer your property and it is intended to keep your instructions private and shielded from the public record. Before jumping into the deep-end of the Living Trust ‘pool’ you should understand that all your property that has a title must be transferred to the Living Trust and no longer be held in your name. A seasoned adviser can answer your questions and help you determine if a will or a trust is right for you.


What about my stories and our family history, do they go in a will or a trust?


Both a Will and a Living Trust are legal documents are are only intended to handle the disposition of your tangible possessions. However, if you engage the services of a Legacy Specialist such as myself, we also provide tools and resources that allow for the orderly accumulation and preservation of what may be your most valuable assets – your thoughts, processes and opinions. Your interesting point of view is currently 1 in 7 billion and that makes yours priceless and invaluable if you choose to organize, preserve and share it. Your life has a story and that story is a part of your legacy. Every life is a legacy.



Who needs a written plan?


Almost everyone can benefit from having a written Legacy & Estate Plan. If you own things or have minor children something must happen when you transition, there is no way to avoid this absolute of life. Take control and responsibility today, it is very important.


Have a question, just ask. So, do you have an up-to-date written plan?




Don West, Jr.

is the Creator of the Legacy Pyramid and counsels individuals, families and organizations on the subject of Legacy Development & Preservation. Don serves as the Associate Director of Education to the Legacy Institute and assists the NFL’s Ricky Williams and other professional athletes plan and execute their second-careers and Personal Legacies.


Every Person and Family Has a Story



Yes, every life is a legacy.  The lessons you learn need to be passed to future generations to provide optimal success.  Let us help you share your story and pave the way to your unique legacy of love, health, happiness & wealth.  You will surprise yourself!



Don West Jr.’s – Legacy Pyramid

The latest release of Don West, Jr.’s Legacy Pyramid is now available. Looking feedback and comments from those interested in Strategic Life Planning, Legacy Planning, and/or Estate Planning.

Don West Jr.'s – Legacy Pyramid.