John “John A” Warnick, Founder of the Purposeful Planning Institute, Fellow of the American College of Trust & Estate Counsel and author of the Purposeful Trust & Legacies Handbook

John A. Warnick, who family, friends and clients know as “John A”, describes himself as a “recovering tax attorney.”  After practicing for thirty years as a tax and legal advisor to wealthy families, he left the large law firm he was a partner in to pursue his passion of assisting clients transition their wealth more purposefully.  He works with clients, and their team of advisors, to ensure that the impact of their technical planning will be a positive force in the lives of the rising generations of their family.  His blog, Seedlings, provides suggestions on powerful but easy ways in which we can create non-financial legacies for our families and communities.  John A has been on what he describes as the path to Purposeful Planning Mastery for almost twenty years.  There are many technical and professional mentors he is indebted to.  But he is quick to point out “my greatest teachers have been my clients.  It is through them I discovered the secrets for producing not just tax-wise plans but plans that promote family harmony, individual growth and long-term preservation of family wealth.”

Mr. Warnick is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.  He has served as the Philanthropic Editor of the Journal of Practical Estate Planning and serves on the Carter Center Philanthropy Council and the Multidisciplinary Teaming and Professional Collaboration Committee of the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils.  His most recent publications include “Generative Trusts & Trustees: A New Paradigm for Design and Administration”, “Innovate or Die”, and  “Selecting a Trust Situs in the 21st Century”.  Mr. Warnick received a BA magna cum laude from Brigham Young University and his JD from George Washington University with honors.

Professional Associations and Recognitions

  • Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel
  • Recognized as a Best Lawyer in America
  • Member of International Association of Advisors in Philanthropy
  • Member of the Financial Planning Association
  • Member of the Collaboration for Family Flourishing
  • Advisory Board Member for the Family Building Institute
  • Member of the Colorado Bar Association & Wyoming State Bar

Select Publications and Presentations

To Be or Not to Be—Some Thoughts on the Life of Family Foundations

Yŏu Bản Fă – (There Is A Way): Reviewing the Wisdom of Great Thinkers to Combat the Negativity and Planning Paralysis that Challenges Philanthropic Planners and Their Clients Today

The Purposeful Charitable Trust or Foundation: Client Memory Loss and Charitable Remainder Trusts

The Benefits of Greater Meaning and Purpose in Charitable Trusts, DAFs, and Family Foundations

Maturity Markers – A New Paradigm for Trust Distribution Models and Gifts

Incentive Trusts: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly by John A. Warnick (Feb 2009)


John A. Warnick is a frequent presenter on a wide variety of topics including:

The Purposeful Trust Revolution
Clients are increasingly concerned about what their wealth will do to their children and grandchildren. They continue to express dissatisfaction with the complexity and sterility of their estate planning and business succession documents and with how their trusts will be administered. As clients pass away and the generational transfer of wealth occurs, advisors and trustees see unintended consequences from the tax motivated forms and structures. Is there a better, more positive, way that advisors and trustees can approach and handle the transition of wealth from one generation to another? The answer to that question begins in the design stage of the Purposeful Trust™, an exciting new wave of planning which brings greater meaning and satisfaction to clients and advisors. You will discover how you can assist in capturing your client’s voice, vision and values and then how that design process can transform legal documents from sterility to Purposeful Trusts™, which will be antidotes to entitlement and affluenza. National Advisors Trust Company, Naples, Florida, May 13-14, 2010.
Trustees, Beneficiaries and Charities
New Planning Tips for Happier Donors and Flourishing Families.
A Harvard Law Professor has suggested that at the end of the 20th Century trusts moved from the “age of distribution” to the “age of management.” John A. Warnick believes that with the advent of trusts that will last for millennia that greater focus needs to be paid to the trust as a “fabric of relationships.” What steps can advisors take to assist donors to discover greater clarity and purpose around both their lifetime and testamentary planning? How can trusts and gifting programs be designed to optimize their generative potential? February 11, 2010 – Houston Texas Professional Advisor Luncheon sponsored by 9 Texas Universities and the M.D. Anderson Medical Center and attended by 250 professional advisors to family business owners and families of wealth.
The IRR of Purposeful Trusts – Innovative, Revolutionary and Rewarding
What are the Seven Secrets of the Purposeful Trust concept? How did George Washington’s 16 page handwritten will “revolutionize” the Purposeful Trust™. Why is the Purposeful Trust™ such a rewarding process for both the grantor, the advisors, and the grantor’s family? WealthCounsel Annual Symposium, Chicago Illinois, August 7, 2009
The Uses and Potential Abuses of Trusts Protectors
Why are Trust Protectors and Decanting Clauses perhaps the hottest topic in estate planning today? Besides offering the advantage of “rigid flexibility” what other possible uses of Trust Protectors are there? How can the role of the Trust Protector be abused? Who makes the ideal Trust Protector? How do Trustees and Trust Protectors interface? John Warnick will give you new insights into how you can draft trusts to achieve “rigid flexibility” July 7, 2009 – Lorman Webinar (nationwide) – Arizona Chapter of Wealth Counsel Fall Advisors Forum, September 2009 Scottsdale, Arizona
Incentive Trusts: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Have you ever noticed that there seem to be cycles or fads which occur in the estate planning world? Within these cycles we will often find each of the following elements: the good (that which should be refined and preserved); the bad (that which if not thoughtfully weighed and counterbalanced may lead to unintended consequences) and the ugly (that which will truly lead to serious harm or disappointment). Incentive trusts are a relatively fresh fad rolling through the estate planning community. John Warnick will demonstrate how this trend contains all three of those elements and poses special challenges for both trustees and the attorneys drafting these instruments. Thirty State Bar Consortium Teleconference, May 25, 2010; Partners Financial Annual Advisors Symposium, Las Vegas, Nevada, June 8, 2009.
Trustees, Beneficiaries and Charities – Why All the Hostility?
Trust and estate litigation is the fastest growing area of practice for estate planning attorneys. Why? Inheritors sue charities seeking to upset testamentary gifts to foundations or charities. Trustees complain beneficiaries are increasingly self-centered and dysfunctional. What can we do to prevent this hostility? What proactive steps can grantors, donors and planners take to increase the likelihood that the dreams and purposes of the grantor/donor will be honored? What can we learn from the Chinese and from the new science of gratitude to avoid having the family rupture and beneficiaries sink into entitlement and life-drift? Advisors in Philanthropy Annual Conference, Chicago, Illinois, April 25, 2009.
“Purposeful Trusts: A New Paradigm for Grantors, Trustees and Estate Planning Advisors”
Do great tax planning techniques too often produce undesirable and unintended consequences in the lives of beneficiaries and donees? Why do beneficiaries so often resent a trust document or the trustee who is administering it? Do trusts have to be sterile, faceless documents written in the third person? Is there a way to bring greater purpose and vision into estate planning and business succession documents? Purposeful Trusts are trust instruments that capture the voice, vision and experiences of the trustmaker and address each of these questions and concerns. The Purposeful Trust gives the trustee and beneficiaries a much greater understanding of what your purposes were in creating the trust and what you hope they will accomplish with the wealth you will entrust to them. The results of this process are so gratifying that one of the earliest clients we worked with broke down in tears the day we were signing her trust documents. When I asked her what was wrong, she replied: “These are tears of joy. I never knew that my children and grandchildren would be able to read my trust and hear my voice.” John Warnick will discuss how the powerful new paradigm of the Purposeful Trust is bringing greater satisfaction to advisors, clients and beneficiaries. Annual Collegium of the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, Indianapolis, Indiana, April, 2009; Denver Estate Planning Council, November 2008; InKnowVision Annual Advisors Conference, August, 2008; Mass Mutual Wealth Advisors Symposium, Cincinnati, Ohio, June, 2008; Orange Coast Estate Planning Council (Orange County, California) February 25, 2008; National Association of Estate Planners & Councils Annual Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana, November 15-16, 2007; Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants and Colorado Financial Planning Association Combined Annual Meeting, Greenwood Village, Colorado, Nov. 2, 2007.
“Emerging Adulthood: Successfully Launching Your Child in Life and Business”
Have you seen the movies “Failure to Launch” or “The Ultimate Gift”? Have you wrestled with the “how much is too much” and “how much is enough” issues? Perhaps even more important than the “how much” issue is the “how to” question. What can you do to help your children and grandchildren flourish?. Emerging adulthood is generally considered to be the space between ages 18 and 30. It is a new phase of human development which has been discovered by social scientists in the last 15 years. Not all affluent children will go through emerging adulthood. But other children may linger for years in the space of emerging adulthood leading parents and grandparents to wonder if they will ever grow up. Are there “new norms of behavior” among emerging adults and what implications do they pose for family wealth and family businesses? Mr. Warnick will share the suggestions he and a team of nationally recognized family wealth coaches and psychologists have developed. This presentation will help you make sure that your gifting and estate planning strategies will be positive, rather than negative, influences on the members of your family. Harris/My CFO Annual Client Gathering, Aspen, Colorado on August, 7, 2008. An updated version of this presentation will be presented on May 25, 2010 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on a national webinar sponsored by a consortium of 35 state bar associations.
“The Meaning of Trust(s)”
This was a joint presentation with Tim Belber, J.D., given in Chicago, Illinois for the Legacy Group, January 25, 2007. This topic was also presented at the Rocky Mountain Estate Planning Council on May 2, 2007. It describes new ideas around how trusts should be designed and implemented. Why shouldn’t every trust come with an “owner’s manual” that would help both the trustee and beneficiary know what the grantor intended? How can we reduce the antagonism and tension between trustees and beneficiaries? What type of “currency” should your trusts be denominated in and why does the emotional currency surrounding the creation of the trust have such profound meaning on how it will be administered and how the lives of the beneficiaries will be impacted by it.
“The Generative Trustee and Trust Advisor”
The Generative Trustee is a new paradigm for trustees and the families they serve. The concept of the Generative Trustee grows out of the belief that a trust should be an enhancing influence in the lives of beneficiaries rather than merely a family ATM machine. The Generative Trust Advisor responds to the desires of affluent families that their entire advisory team will be focused on generativity and support the flourishing of each family member? This presentation provides examples of “best practices” among Generative Trustees and Trust Advisors. It will make you realize that if your trustee isn’t as generative as you would like there is something you can do about it. – Group of Twenty (20 individuals whose net worth started at $250MM and up) Wealth Management Conference, March 5, 2008, Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Markers of Maturity – A New Paradigm for Trust Distribution Models”
This presentation provides an overview of the traditional trust distribution models for both income and principal. It will explore the advantages and perceived disadvantages of everything from the “all income” model to “absolute discretion” and “best interests”. It will trace the evolution of age based and event based distribution models into the current rage of “incentive trusts”. Mr Warnick will conclude the presentation with a discussion of the concept he and a group of wealth psychologists pioneered which they call “Markers of Maturity” and will provide examples of how this model may contribute to enhancing the development and well being of trust beneficiaries. Denver Family Business Study Group, (FFI Affiliate), June 26, 2007.
“Gratitude + Purpose + Vision = Happier Donors and Flourishing Families”
Do your clients confide in you that they are giving most of their money to charity because they don’t want their wealth to create another Paris Hilton? Has any donor complained that their children or grandchildren just don’t seem to have any time or interest to spend on the family foundation? Do you work with anyone who wants to begin transitioning wealth and opportunity to their children but are struggling with the “letting go?” Have you experienced the excitement and planning energy that is unleashed when clients are able to develop a clear vision and purpose for their philanthropic mission? Why do some families successfully transition their wealth but sociological studies suggest that seventy percent of wealthy families experience some failure or blow-up in that process? John A. Warnick will discuss scientific research on the importance of gratitude and altruism as practices to increase individual happiness and well-being. He will also describe the best philanthropic practices of families who are flourishing not only into third generation but well beyond. Colorado Planned Giving Roundtable, February 26, 2008

Putting Heart and Soul into Your Trust

John A. Warnick

“Lost in the sterility of the typical legalese of wills and trusts is the love parents and grandparents feel for their children and grandchildren – the faith they have in their descendents’ potential to grow and develop, and the hope they hold for their future.”
– John A. Warnick