Discussing Inheritance with Your Children

When you don’t discuss your inheritance with your adult children, you risk negatively affecting their decision-making. Managing expectations and knowing how the inheritance situation will affect them can lead to better decisions. These are practical matters of allocating resources for things like housing, retirement, 529 plans, and more.

When children don’t understand your inheritance intentions, it can result in arguments and legal battles among siblings and other heirs after you’re gone. The solution is a mature discussion with your inheritors, sharing details of your estate plan relevant to your child. You can withhold actual numbers by  a range, such as enough for a home downpayment, can provide a sense of magnitude without committing to exact amounts.

The Great Wealth Transfer

According to the Federal Reserve, the baby boomers are the wealthiest generation in US history. Baby boomers hold 70 percent of disposable income in the US and spend over $548 billion annually. Forbes cites research firm Cerulli Associates stating that as much as $84 trillion may change hands by 2045, and much of the wealth is from high net-worth baby boomers. Millennials will control five times as much wealth in 2030 as they do today. Are they prepared for responsible stewardship?

Many who currently have substantial wealth have concerns that if their children know the extent of their wealth, it will reduce their motivation for productivity and growing into responsible citizens. Most parents prefer their children to live a “real” life, learning to grow their success independently of their parent’s wealth. However, wealth is relative, and many parents also fear losing their ability to cover retirement, medical expenses, and long-term care, maintaining their quality of life while protecting their legacy. Because of this uncertainty, generally managing the expectations of their children’s future inheritance is better than providing exact amounts. Things can change.

Failure to Prepare

Failing to prepare children for what they may inherit can hinder their ability to handle money wisely. Many suddenly feel separated from their friends, isolated, or even confused about relationships. Others may be wasteful and spend their newfound money irresponsibly. Those who inherit even a modest amount can be just as irresponsible without guidance. BLB&B Financial Advisors cite, “it takes the average recipient of an inheritance just 19 days until they buy a new car!” It’s all too common for some inheritors to go further and splurge on lavish vacations and fast living.

The Conversation

Experts agree it’s important to talk to children about money and wealth during their adult years to help them learn how to manage money and live beneath their means as a lifestyle habit. Imprinting values, the opportunities money can provide, and their hopes of what they want to accomplish with money are good conversation starters. Providing your younger children with a modest sum of money and parental oversight can teach them how to save and invest, spend wisely, and even demonstrate the importance of supporting charities.

Of course, one of the most effective strategies to teach children about values, spending, and investing money is by example. Parents must use their money in a way that reinforces their values. One way to foster a positive relationship within the family is to purchase a vacation home where everyone gathers for summers, holidays, or annual family gatherings. Other techniques involve permitting children to choose charities to support and provide donations. If your children see you living your values, they will likely adopt similar values.

Estate Planning

Talking to your children about inheritance is an integral part of estate planning. Being transparent, fair, and open to their emotions can help ensure a smooth transition of your assets to the next generation. Keep a few things in mind during discussions:

·       Timing is Important

Have these conversations when children are mature enough to understand the implications of inheritance. Don’t create unnecessary anxiety or misunderstandings by starting the conversation too early.

·       Be Transparent

Be clear about your estate intentions and plans without getting too detailed about the numbers. Being open about your goals and hopes for them can help avoid future conflicts and misunderstandings. Not providing exact numbers keeps your estate planning flexible.

·       Consider Fairness

Consider what is fair and equitable when dividing your assets among children. Each child does not necessarily need to have an equal amount. Consider factors such as their financial situations, relationships with you, and levels of need.

·       Address Emotions

Inheritance can be an emotional topic for everyone. Acknowledge and address any feelings of anxiety, guilt, or resentment that may arise during the conversations.

How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

There are several ways an estate planning attorney can help when organizing your children’s inheritance, including:

1.     Legal and Tax Implications

Estate planning attorneys understand the current legal and tax implications of inheritance. Your lawyer can help you navigate complex laws and regulations, ensuring your assets’ distributions are most efficient and tax effective.

2.     Drafting Legal Documents

Estate planning attorneys can draft wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and more to help you plan for your children’s inheritance. Tailoring these documents to your specific needs ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

3.     Reviewing and Updating Documents

Estate planning attorneys can review your existing planning documents to ensure they are up-to-date and reflect your current wishes. They may also recommend changes based on shifts in your family or financial circumstances. Informing your adult children of substantial changes is crucial in your inheritance conversations.

4.     Guiding Asset Protection

Estate planning attorneys can guide strategies to protect your assets from potential creditors or legal claims. They can also help plan for long-term care and other future expenses to keep the bulk of your estate intact for your children.

5.     Facilitating Communication

Estate planning attorneys can foster communication between you and your children about your estate planning decisions. These discussions can help prevent future misunderstandings and conflicts.


While an estate planning attorney can help ensure your children’s inheritance is organized and distributed effectively, parents also play a key role. Parents must educate their children regarding the value of money, what it can and can’t do for them, and have open conversations about their future inheritance. Including your estate planning attorney in some of the more crucial conversations with your children about their inheritance can be effective. Your attorney can address any questions from a legal standpoint and help the discussion to remain fact-based, keeping emotions to a minimum.

Failing to talk to adult children about their inheritance can leave them unprepared to handle even a modest amount and often results in the money being quickly squandered. Help your children to maintain your legacy and your family’s intergenerational wealth for years to come.

This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.