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James W. Smyth, Executive Director

James W. Smyth, Attorney at Law<br />
MBA/JD, University of Notre Dame
James W. Smyth, Attorney at Law
MBA/JD, University of Notre Dame

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.

About James W. Smyth

Jim Smyth (MBA/JD,) Executive Director of Custom Structured Settlements, LLC, is a 1979 graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s Law School and Graduate School of Business. He served as an associate editor of the Notre Dame Law Review.

Jim is a member of both the Indiana Bar and Michigan Bar. He is or has also been a member of the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, Renaissance Advisors, and Fortress Attorney Advisors.

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.

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.

Based on his 15 years as a Trust Attorney, as well as a family tragedy in 2000, the death of his grandmother, Jim realized that just establishing trusts and protecting a family's wealth was not enough to protect and ensure the family's legacy and longevity. That's when he realized that there had to be a better way, a more holistic approach, to facilitate families' financial growth and stability while maintaining and improving family communication and unity, while 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. And so, in 2011 the Family Trust Institute was born.

Jim created a unique approach to estate planning, which he called The Legacy Lifeboat, a step-by-step process that helps ensure family success over generations by treating families as more than just financial assets controlled by laws and documents. Based on each individual family’s vision and goals, the process created legal documents and systems to promote success and fulfillment for generations.

Unlike traditional estate planning, Jim understood the true nature of legacy and wealth transfer, both tangible and intangible, and the effects they have on heirs and future generations. As a result, the Legacy Lifeboat generational succession plan focused on the family’s true wealth and perspective – and their impact in their community.

Now Jim has taken the next step in the process of wealth creation and preservation. After observing that no matter how well a family's legacy was protected through trusts and other financial tools, he realized that their legacy was being diminished bit by bit as Capital Gains and other taxes ate into their estate's value. He knew there had to be a better way.

In 2013, after years of intensive research into financial and tax law, Jim teamed up with Art Jensen, a highly knowledgeable and respected CA, to develop alternative methods to traditional financial tools to create a risk-free program to protect assets, reduce personal and Capital Gains taxes, and preserve wealth, all without any out-of-pocket expense. Custom Structured Settlements was established to provide owners of investment properties with the unique service they created.

Jim Smyth, MBA, JD, is a member of both the Indiana Bar and Michigan Bar. He is or has also been a member of the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, Renaissance Advisors, and Fortress Attorney Advisors.

Honors and Memberships

Active or Former Member in:
January 1998 -- Present

  • Family Firm Institute
  • Attorneys for Family Held Enterprises
  • Fortress Partnership Planning Advisors
  • Renaissance Planning
  • Legacy Boston
  • Heritage Institute
  • Purposeful Planning Institute
  • Sunbridge Institute
  • National Charitable Advisors
  • Minessence Institute
  • Wealth Counsel Attorney Group
  • National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys
  • and other groups


Active or Former Advisor on:
January 1998 -- Present

  • Johns Hopkins Hospital, Department of Neurosurgury; Advisory Board Member, 2008 – 2013
  • Duke University Catholic Center; Advisory Board Member, 2007 – 2012
  • Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana; Board Member, Planned Giving Council, Since 2009