Inherited Wealth – A Blessing Or A Curse?

Despite the bitter economic downturn, one part of the American dream is alive and well: the possibility of sudden wealth. Yet such life-changing windfalls can just as quickly vanish, say advisers who work with those who suddenly become wealthy.

If you are setting up an inheritance for the next generation, or if you yourself may be an inheritor, here’s an important, if depressing, fact to consider: more often than not, immediate wealth is easily (and quickly) squandered. A recent Wall Street Journal article points out the trend, and whatever your present relation to the estate planning process, it’s an important fact to consider.

When you think of squandered wealth it’s all too easy to come up with stories of professional athletes and 15-minutes-of-fame pop stars. Regardless, famous people are no better and no worse than the rest of us. In reality, this problem can affect anyone with some sudden influx of wealth, especially an inheritor.

In fact, there are some objective numbers to support this assertion. According to the latest available data from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances, more than nine million households in the U.S. reported getting an inheritance of at least $100,000. And, looking to the future, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates that baby boomers – those 78 million people born from 1946 through 1964 – are expected to inherit some $8.4 trillion during their lifetimes. In turn, these boomers are just as likely to hope to pass it down immediately. These handoffs make for a large margin of error, both as individuals and as a society.

As an inheritor, the challenge is to be the “exception” and that will take work. As an estate planner, giving up wealth here and now, there is still work to be done and it is all the more pressing! Properly planning and transferring wealth to your loved ones is about planning for the entire process – the long-run – and the future well being of your family.

It’s important to understand the ways you can plan to protect your inheritors, and there are many tools available once you understand this goal. Often, you’re protecting your inheritors from themselves.


Reference: The Wall Street Journal (February 25, 2012) “Too Rich, Too Soon

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