A recent survey of international savings, retirement, and estate planning habits found that the United States ranked surprisingly low in terms of how many parents planned to leave a gift for their children and how much. About 59 percent of those surveyed in the United States said that they planned to leave an inheritance for their children. Depending on your perspective that could seem very high or very low, but it does raise an interesting question of who chooses to leave assets behind and why.
For example, many fastidious financial planners hope to enjoy the money they have saved over the years and make an estate plan only as a contingency in the event that they do not spend all of their money before they pass away. The important thing to remember in this situation is that most financially astute people will have some funds or other assets remaining and it is important to make some plans to distribute those assets.
In other cases, leaving money to children may be an important value, particularly for those who benefitted from an inheritance from a previous generation. Some people may also look past their immediate offspring and into future generations, setting up a college fund or leaving behind a charitable legacy for younger members of the family to manage.
Whatever the plan is, it is important to put it in writing and make sure that one’s last wishes are legally enforceable. It is also helpful to include contingencies in the plan in case the future does not look quite as it was imagined.
Source: Forbes, “Why Bother Leaving an Inheritance for the Kids?” Larry Light, Feb. 27, 2014.