When Considering Inheritances, Baby Boomers Fear Children's Financial Acumen

September 15, 2011

Professional inheritance planning continues to rise in popularity among all classes of society as more and more seniors reach retirement age and come to appreciate the legal tools available to help in their planning efforts. Interestingly, a new poll discussed in Time magazine this month explains that many of the newest retirees from the Baby Boomer generation have doubts about their heirs' ability to manage an inheritance. This is a common concern, and our New York estate planning lawyers work with many clients in this area who are specifically tailoring their plans to account for it.

The new survey found that only 49% of millionaire Baby Boomers indicated that leaving money to their children was a priority in their estate planning. When analyzed closely it is clear that the polling figures do not indicate that these parents have stopped worrying about the well-being of their children. Instead, many of them have deep concerns about the effect that a large inheritance will have on their offspring. For example, one-fifth of survey respondents felt that their children would simply squander the inheritance and a quarter of these seniors thought that receiving too much money would only make their heirs lazy. Perhaps because of this, a majority of these retirees admit that they keep their children in the dark about their exact net worth so as to prevent expectations about what will be left behind.

Fear about the financial sense of children has long been a concern for local community members. For decades, attorneys at our New York elder law estate planning firm have worked with residents who were worried about a family member's ability to handle money. Fortunately, tailoring inheritance plans to account for spendthrift children is exactly a benefit one derives from seeking professional help in this area. A variety of trusts exist which allow parents to pass on the assets they feel appropriate to their heirs in a way that guards against their fears that the inheritance would be wasted, abused, or usurped by a non-relative.

For example, an inheritance could be distributed on a prolonged timeline with certain portions being given to the child at different ages. In this way a child may be given time to mature, eliminating the risk of an entire inheritance being wasted beforehand. More complex options are also available for parents with concerns about spendthrift children. A trust could be created that is managed by a third party so that the child benefits from but does not have direct access to the assets. In other cases a "sprinkling" trust might be a good option. It creates a separate legal entity that "sprinkles" benefits in either equal or unequal amounts to the named beneficiaries over a period of time--often the spendthrift child and his or her own children.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Parents Grapple with Effect of Inheritances and the Meaning of Money

What to Do About Children Who Can't Handle Money