Talking to kids about inheritance is crucial to success

People in California perhaps read a recent editorial about the importance of preparing the next generation of heirs for their inheritance. The article makes some excellent points about why it's extremely important for people with a substantial estate to educate their heirs, and perhaps even involve them in the estate planning process where appropriate.

Californians with wealth often consider themselves lucky to be financially stable, but also acknowledge that wealth comes with responsibility. This responsibility extends to making sure that loved ones are provided for after a person's death. But controlling another person's decisions is easier said than done, and there is no guarantee that heirs will spend and save that wealth wisely. While a trust can be a useful instrument in controlling expenditures to some degree, there is no substitute for educating the benefactor.

The article makes an astute point that a person who doesn't know what to expect may either be pleasantly surprised or disappointed, but in either event they don't know how to plan for the unknown. This can be like winning the lottery, and history has shown that lottery winners have a woefully bad track record of disciplined and fruitful financial decisions.

One way to involve heirs, even at an early age, is to give them incentives. The article discussed a wealthy man who gave his children the family vacation money, and they had to decide how to invest it before the family trip the coming year. If they did well, they went on a grand vacation, but if they lost it, they had to make do with what they had. This is a low-risk but practical example of how people can teach heirs about the value of money and the consequences of their decisions.

Source: The Tennessean "Phoebe Venable: Discuss inheritance with children at the appropriate time," Phoebe Venable, Sept. 28, 2013

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