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Don’t make “inheritor’s guilt” an unwanted legacy for loved ones

On Behalf of | May 25, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Most people who are fortunate enough to be able to leave their loved ones money and other valuable assets when they pass away intend for those assets to make their lives easier and to help them achieve their goals. This can include putting their kids through college, buying a home or starting a business.

Sometimes, when that inheritance is greater than what someone expected, they can suffer what’s been termed “inheritor’s guilt.” It’s not exclusive to people who inherit millions of dollars. Any time a beneficiary inherits more than they thought a deceased loved one had, they can feel some level of guilt.

That’s particularly true if that person led a simple life with few, if any, outward indications of wealth. This was common for those who grew up during the Great Depression. Many preferred to save their money rather than spend it because they’d seen what can happen if the economy collapsed. While that generation is mostly gone now, many of their children (largely in the Baby Boom generation) inherited not only their money but that commitment to saving rather than spending.

If you’re in that generation, you may have felt some guilt when you learned that your parents, grandparents or aunts and uncles who lived frugally had more than enough money to live a very different lifestyle.

How to avoid passing down inheritor’s guilt

Now that you have those assets as well as what you’ve earned yourself, you don’t want to pass on that inheritor’s guilt to your own children. How do you avoid that?

Start by giving them an idea of what they’re going to inherit. You don’t need to give specifics (which will likely change anyway). However, it helps if they have some idea.

It can also help to let them know how you’d like to see them use the money. That doesn’t mean giving them conditions. However, if they know they’re using it in a way that you’d approve of, they’re less likely to feel guilty.

If you’re going to leave considerable assets to your kids, it can be smart to introduce them to your financial and tax advisors – or at least make sure these professionals are ready to help them if they have questions. Focusing on making wise decisions about the assets can help them feel like they’re being good custodians of them.

With experienced estate planning guidance, you can make the best possible decisions based on your unique goals and concerns for your family to avoid passing on inheritor’s guilt.


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