Preparing Your Kids for an Inheritance

The WSJ/Barron’s has this fascinating article about the new $5.25 million per person lifetime gift tax exemption that Congress passed as part of the deal to avert the fiscal cliff. But the question that arises, especially as some young, wealthy heirs and heiresses’ antics grace the tabloid and Internet headlines: can a child properly handle their inheritance? If you give your child $5 million, will they save and invest it wisely, or will they spend it frivolously and waste your hard-earned wealth and financial legacy to them? This age-old issue is nothing new – there’s a non-tax reason that custodian bank accounts exist for minors, that trusts are popular, that savings bonds, CDs, and 529 college savings accounts exist – parents and grandparents need to be able to shepherd the money their children and grandchildren will receive. Yes, a gift is giving away money without formal strings attached – not reserving some right to take it back if a financial rainy day comes along, if your child wastes the money on things you don’t approve of, or if the child turns out not to have any financial or investing sense. But legal techniques exist to help protect the gift while your child learns how to work with their inheritance.

If the economic downtown hit your portfolio like high tide hitting a beautifully crafted sand castle on the beach (as it impacted most people’s hard-earned investments, savings, and home equity), or if you’re still working to build up wealth as the economy slowly recovers, you may be looking at smaller gifts for family members. Maybe  you anticipate giving tens or hundreds of thousands to loved ones, not millions. The same principle still applies – can you child or grandchild handle getting a check for $5,000, $10,000, $100,000?

Parents and grandparents need to talk with their children and grandchildren about money, investing, saving, and inheritances. It may not be an easy or fun talk and it might be awkward at first, but it’s a lot easier to discuss now than when you’re gravely ill or when your family is trying to clean up a messy estate after you’ve died. Look for some tips on how to inherit and handling an inheritance soon on this blog. In the meantime, if I can help you or your family with your estate planning, small business, or asset protection needs, give me a call (913-707-9220) or email me ( At Johnson Law KC LLC, we’re here to serve your needs – now and for many years to come.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.


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