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  • Writer's pictureMaria Worthington McKenna

Successful Dynasty Trusts in History: The Rockefeller Family

Dynasty trusts have played a crucial role in preserving wealth and fostering a lasting financial legacy for many affluent families throughout history. One excellent example is the Rockefeller family, whose strategic use of dynasty trusts has made them one of the most prosperous and enduring family dynasties in the world.


Who Started It?


The Rockefeller dynasty trust was established by John D. Rockefeller, the American business magnate and philanthropist who founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870.[1] As the wealthiest individual of his time, Rockefeller developed values and traditions to keep his family together and preserve their wealth for over 150 years.[2] In 1934, he established the family's first trust, which laid the foundation for the creation of the dynasty trust in 1952,[3] both managed by Chase Bank, that would protect the interest of family descendants for generations.[4]


Standard Oil would go on to control 90 percent of US refineries and pipelines, and Rockefeller became the wealthiest man in the world and one of the first billionaires.[5] Standard Oil now operates under ExxonMobil and Chevron corporations.


What Does the Trust Hold?


The Rockefeller dynasty trust encompasses significant and diversified assets, including equities, real estate, energy, technology, private investments, and philanthropic foundations.[6] A strategic approach to protecting resources in trusts has allowed the family to preserve wealth and adapt to economic upheaval and fluctuating markets.


Who Benefits from It?


For over 150 years, multiple generations of Rockefeller family members have benefited from the trusts that successfully passed down wealth to support their financial literacy and education.[7] This in turn allowed them to continue the family's charitable pursuits in education, healthcare, business, and more.[8] 


Other Accomplishments and Philanthropic Initiatives


Beyond the financial aspects, the Rockefeller dynasty trust drives numerous philanthropic initiatives. It utilizes financial resources to encourage a sense of stewardship and philanthropy to shape the family’s financial future and guide each generation to make responsible impacts on society.[9] The Rockefeller Foundation was established in 1913, addressing global challenges such as public health, education, scientific research, and environmental conservation, and still plays a pivotal role in shaping cultural institutions today.[10]


The Rockefeller Trust Is Still a Success


The last surviving grandchild of the Rockefeller patriarch, David Rockefeller, died at age 101 in March 2017. His oldest son, David Rockefeller Jr., 76, continues to protect the family’s financial security and philanthropy. The Rockefeller net worth is currently valued at $8.4 billion, spread out over 170 heirs.[11] Various trusts have helped fund projects ranging from the arts to international trade.[12]


Tips When Considering a Dynasty Trust


If you and your family are considering a dynasty trust, we would love the opportunity to work with you and your trusted advisors. Since setting up and funding a trust is a complex process, it could take some time to create the right strategy that aligns with your goals and maximizes trust benefits. You may have multiple options to protect your estate and your family’s future. Professional guidance helps determine the best possible decisions for your situation.


A dynasty trust is a flexible estate planning tool, designed to hold, control, and distribute property over many generations. You decide how the money is transferred, to whom, and when. Think about what you want for your family’s future and clearly articulate your goals to help future generations succeed.


Dynasty trusts are powerful tools for those who want to provide both a lasting legacy and financial security for future generations. The Rockefeller dynasty trust is a testament to the enduring success of well-structured and meticulously managed trusts and estate planning strategies. If you want to make a lasting impact on your family and the world, we can help.


[1] Rockefellers v. Vanderbilts: How It Started & How It’s Going, Trust & Will, https://trustandwill.com/learn/rockefellers-vs-vanderbilts (last visited Feb. 28, 2024).

[2] Robert Frank, 4 Secrets to Raising Wealthy Kids, According to the Billionaire Rockefeller Family, CNBC Make It (Mar. 28, 2018), https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/26/david-rockefeller-jr-shares-4-secrets-to-wealth-and-family.html.

[3] Abby Schultz, The Rockefeller Legacy, Penta (June 20, 2018), https://www.barrons.com/articles/the-rockefeller-legacy-1529467230.

[4]  Rockefellers v. Vanderbilts, supra note 1.

[5]  Id.

[6] Sean Fisher, The Rockefellers are Still One of the Richest Families of All Time—5 Ways They Created Generational Wealth, GoBankingRates (Sept. 29, 2023), https://www.gobankingrates.com/money/wealth/the-rockefellers-still-richest-families-all-time-5-ways-created-generational-wealth. 

[7] Id.

[8] Alicja Zelazko, Rockefeller Family, Britannica (Jan. 4, 2024), https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rockefeller-family

[9] Abby Schultz, supra note 3. 

[10] Our History, The Rockefeller Foundation, https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/about-us/our-history (last visited Feb. 29, 2024).

[11] Robert Frank, supra note 2.

[12] From Rockefellers to Rothschilds: How Five Old-Money Dynasties Live Today, LoveMoney, https://www.lovemoney.com/gallerylist/77379/from-rockefellers-to-rothschilds-how-five-oldmoney-dynasties-live-today (last visited Feb. 29, 2024).

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