Just last week James Bond actor, Daniel Craig was said to have joined the growing number of millionaires who say they will not leave an inheritance for their children. He was quoted as saying he found the culture of leaving an inheritance “distasteful” and that his philosophy was “get rid of it or give it away before you go.” As expected, his announcement has opened once again the argument as to whether leaving an inheritance for one’s children is a good or bad thing.
A lot of people who support leaving an inheritance for one’s children especially Christians, take their stance from the Bible, specifically Proverbs 13 :22 which states .”that a good man leaves an inheritance that endures to his children ‘s children.” I must say that it is a justified position, for what is the point of one generation toiling and slaving to amass wealth only to leave it to strangers and the next generation continues the same cycle without any reprieve? Those that oppose the practice often point to the fact that leaving an inheritance for one’s child deprives them of the opportunity to make something of their own lives, thus encouraging laziness and dependence on a lifestyle that they cannot afford.
I understand both arguments. There is a freedom that an early inheritance gives one that cannot be equaled. It puts one on a higher starting level than one’s contemporaries; it opens one to several possibilities and enables one to discover themselves earlier and do the things that makes one happy and fulfilled. It is also undeniable that an inheritance, especially one given at an early age, is capable of destroying children and rendering them useless both to themselves, their family and society at large.
As a young adult, I wished my parents left me with choice properties all around the world and money in the bank. I envied my friends, whose parents left them a substantial inheritance as it undoubtedly made life much easier for them but now that I am a parent of young adults myself and having spent loads of money on financing my children’s education and upbringing, I understand the sentiments of those who say that leaving an inheritance is not a must and I boldly state that I will not succumb to societal expectations of leaving them a hefty inheritance as I am looking forward to when I can stop paying school fees and can start to spend my money on myself and on the things my heart desires.
So am I saying it is wrong to leave an inheritance for your children?
No not at all, it is the joy of parents to be able to help their kids out not from a position of compulsion but because one can afford to and desires to do so. I certainly will not think good of a parent who amassed wealth only to give it out to strangers or sit on it whilst their children have needs that the money can solve because they want their children to make their own wealth. Why would I want my children to start life from the scratch when they can start it from a middle ground especially with the realities of the economic situation worldwide where adults are moving back home to their parents and some cannot even afford little luxuries.
I also do not subscribe to children wishing you die on time so they can enter into their inheritance.
There must be a balance to leaving an inheritance and these are some of the things I feel we should consider before leaving an inheritance for our children.
- If you have an inheritance to leave, please document it by writing a will. We all know that writing a will is not foolproof as the courts have several litigation suits arising from contested wills but it is safer to write one than to leave it to chance. To prevent the acrimony that arises from contested Wills, my advice is that we do something akin to what my friends’ fathers’ did.
- On his 70th birthday, he called all his children and told them about the contents of his Will and why he shared his property the way he did, with the conditions attached thereto. He asked anyone who had a grouse with his Will to come forward and let him know what their problem was. He is now in his 80s and everyone already knows what is theirs when he dies.
- Another did an outright Deed of gift to his children
- And yet another did a revocable trust, maintaining control over his property in his lifetime and giving them a yearly allowance from profits / rents accrued therefrom.
- Know your children, who they are individually. Do not entrust the family fortunes to a spendthrift just because of his/her age; at the same time be mindful of the kind of relationship that exists between them. Try as much as possible to give them an equal inheritance. As far as I am concerned, that’s the best way to divide property among one’s children as it creates a level ground amongst them and if you must give some more than the others i.e – one is not earning as much as the others through no fault of him/her or has a disability of some sorts or carries much more responsibilities than the others, please explain the reasons why you are doing so. A friend’s father gave his boys more property than his girls in his country home primarily because he said as men they are more likely to go home than the females who will visit their husband’s places more.
- If your children are likely to fight over their inheritance, consider setting up a trust fund that will regulate their activities and will be neutral.
- Don’t leave someone to do the distribution, do it yourself. Your trusted child may take advantage of their position or trust and use it as vendetta for childhood wrongs.
Most parents in my generation are reevaluating the age- long tradition of leaving an inheritance mostly because unlike in the past it is more expensive to train a child and we are spending all we have, with little left over to ensure our children get a better education and life. Also the awareness that our children are more self centered than we were and do not intend to be our pension plan has made most of us decide that we do not owe our children more than a good education and that once we are able to achieve that, our money is ours to enjoy and spend during our lifetime.
An inheritance is good but an inheritance is much more than material things, a good name and reputation can open doors that money cannot buy. Please start the conversations today with your children, it will help you know their mindset and how to best leave your legacy to them.
A rich person should leave his kids, enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing- Warren Buffet.