Silicon Valley Estate Planning Journal

News and Articles from the Law Offices of John C. Martin

What and When Should You Tell Your Children About Their Inheritance?

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Not many parents like to talk to their children about their
wealth. How much money people have is usually considered a private matter,
something it’s not polite to talk about. But not talking to children about how
much they may inherit can leave them unprepared to handle even a modest amount.

 

This is becoming especially important because children of
baby boomers are due to inherit more wealth than ever before. It has been
estimated that baby boomers will inherit $12 trillion from their parents, and
they will leave an additional $30
trillion to their own children over the next 30 to 40 years.

 

Many who have substantial wealth are concerned that letting
their children know how much they have will take away any motivation for the
children to be productive and involved citizens. They often want their children
to learn how to live in the world as “normal” people, and to be productive and
successful in their own right.

 

Even those who are not as wealthy may not want their
children to know how much they have. They may be concerned that all of their
savings will be needed for retirement, medical expenses and end-of-life
expenses. If that turns out to be the case, their kids would not receive an inheritance
they may have been counting on.

 

But not knowing what they may inherit leaves children in the
dark and can actually hinder their ability to handle money wisely. Those who
inherit a substantial amount may be unprepared for what to do with that much
money. Many find they suddenly feel separated from their friends, isolated,
even confused about how to handle relationships; some will be wasteful and
lazy. Those who inherit even a modest amount are likely to be just as
irresponsible; stories of inheritances being squandered on an expensive sports
car, lavish vacations and fast living are all too common.

 

Experts agree it is important to talk to children about
money and wealth, at least in generalities. There is no need to show them bank
and financial statements. Instead of concentrating on money and material
things, talk to them about your values, the opportunities money can provide and
what you want to accomplish with it. Most parents want their children to think
about others, and many want to encourage entrepreneurship. Some give their
children a small amount of money at a young age, and teach them how to save and
invest, give a certain amount to charity and spend wisely.

 

Of course, the most effective way to teach children about
money is to be an example; let them see you using your money in ways that
reinforce your values. Many parents show how they value family relationships by
spending their money on family vacations or buying a second home where the
entire family can gather for summers and holidays. If your children see you
being charitable and helping others, chances are they will become charitable,
too.

 If you have more questions, contact our Palo Alto and Menlo Park Estate Planning Attorneysjohncm. 

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