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Do You Plan to Leave Anything Behind?

The premise behind this post is based on a forum topic started by Sampson.  The question was, what are your inheritance plans when you pass on?  Do you plan on leaving a large sum for the next generation?  Or do you plan on spending it all?  Perhaps you plan on leaving whatever is left over?

Our Plan and Why

I’m closer to the leaving whatever is left over but with a twist of course.  As I explained in the forum, I plan on helping the kids out financially at major life events/milestones while I’m still alive and when they need the money most.  Since I plan/hope to live a long time, when I pass, the kids will be older and will be already financially secure (ideally).  So while the kids are relatively young, I plan on financially contributing to their milestones such as college/university, a wedding, or perhaps even the down payment on their first house.

My Parents

Even though I worked my way though University to cover tuition (part time job and coop), my parents helped us out with a portion of our wedding costs and they even made a contribution towards the down payment of our first house.  Having any amount of help in the early years, especially when just starting out in life, can be the kick start you need to get ahead.

Tax Efficiency

There’s also another benefit of gifting cash to your kids while you are still alive, you get to avoid probate fees.  When you gift cash to your adult kids, the transfer is completely tax free.  However, if you wait until death, the whole estate will face a probate fee before the money can be transferred.

Final Thoughts

More than likely, we’ll continue to build assets for the remainder of my life which could result in more money than we can spend due to our relatively conservative lifestyles.  If we do end up with a sizable portion, we plan to leave some to the kids but most of it will be donated to charity.  Perhaps we’ll even start a small charitable foundation depending on the amount.

The forum opinion/plans on this issue are all over the map.  Some plan on simply leaving the house behind, others plan on leaving nothing, but most plan on leaving something.

Will you leave any assets behind?  What are your plans?

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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • The Weakonomist April 22, 2009, 8:28 am

    I’m hopeful that estate taxes will be different by the time I’m older. Though my plans will probably change for tax efficiency reasons I would like to leave a % of my assets to each child, and a % to a charity or non-profit.

    So if I had 2 kids they would each get a third and the non-profit would get a third.

    This would adjust if I became more and more wealthy, I would love to have enough to give most of my money to a non-profit and still leave my kids with comfortable trusts.

  • Four Pillars April 22, 2009, 10:05 am

    I don’t really have any plans which probably means I’m not planning to leave much assuming my wife & I life to an old age. Perhaps the house?

    I agree with giving money while you are alive – when your kids are in their 20s, 30s etc – that’s when it makes the biggest difference. I don’t worry much about probate tax though – it’s not really that much.

  • Sampson April 22, 2009, 10:07 am

    Thanks for the mention FT! :)

    With all the discussion about how much and when to retire it really got me thinking. My personal experience is very similar to your own. My parents helped me out with my undergrad tuition, some wedding costs, and with a down payment (hey, I wasn’t about to turn away free money!).

    Because of these experiences, I’ve always intended to do the same if/when we have children.

    However, for those not planning to leave a significant amount behind – surely retirement nest eggs could be significantly smaller since you could deplete the principle instead of trying to maintain it.

  • Kathryn April 22, 2009, 10:17 am

    I agree!

    My parents also helped with university, paid for our wedding, and helped with our first house.

    I hope to do the same for my kids. I’d rather share it while we’re still with them but not too much that they’ll have to support us in the end.

  • guinness416 April 22, 2009, 10:26 am

    My demise is way too far off (hopefully!) for me to even consider what I’ll do. However my dad’s side of the family live a long time and I’ll probably be 70 when he dies, so I’d much rather he spend all his money than even consider leaving anything to me and my siblings.

  • Dividend Growth Investor April 22, 2009, 10:37 am

    That’s interesting.. It all depends on whether I become the next Warren Buffett in 50 years or not.. I guess I would change my will accordingly.

  • martyfitz April 22, 2009, 10:48 am

    I came in with nothing and I’m going out with nothing! I never got anything from my parents and I believe it made me stronger and more self sufficient. If all goes to plan (I live long enough) I will die almost broke, in some remote part of the world and my body can be left there.
    Maybe I’ll give it all to the kids before I go off traveling and I’ll send them request for money, when needed. I like the twist of them watching me spend their inheritance and enjoying it.

  • The Reverend April 22, 2009, 10:53 am

    I think the whole idea of leaving a large inheritance is outdated and was really meant for back in the days when people took over the farm from their parents and generation after generation group up in the same household.

    Assuming I die in old age, I probably plan to leave nothing to my kids. Assuming their in their mid 50s or so, what are they going to need an inheritance for at that point. If they’ve been struggling, I would’ve helped them along the way. If they’ve squandered it, their out of luck.

  • Scott April 22, 2009, 10:54 am

    This is a weird topic. not because of the problem with death (gotta hate that part!) but because of how people view the division of generations. Some people would say leave nothing behind, let the kids make it on their own like the parents and grandparents did (although one set of my grandparents had not one, but TWO! houses bought for them by their parents when they were in their 20’s), that’s the weird part.

    Sure, it’s your money and you made it all by yourself…but you can’t take it with you! And it completely eradicates the “family” mentality in favour of self. I would want all my family to be secure and stable and as well-off as they possible can; makes life a whole lot easier.

    That said and done, FT has it right. Help them out when they need it, that’s what a family is for. Double-team the financial “living inheritance” with some real-life financial education lessons to make the family an even stronger entity.

    I posted this before (I think) about a family I know: parents (in their 80’s) are self-made millionaires with eight kids. The majority of the children have pretty much chosen the path of least resistance in terms of career etc. because they are just waiting for the “big payday”. So they’ve wasted the majority of their lives doing nothing in hopes of something that may or may not happen. It’s really sad.

    How many lotto winners go broke? It’s the same with inheritance.

  • Canadian Capitalist April 22, 2009, 11:04 am

    I haven’t thought about this yet. It’s far too early :)

    (Edited: I meant far too early to think about in my thirties, not too early in the morning)

  • Jack April 22, 2009, 1:35 pm

    I want the last cheque I ever write to bounce.

    Just sayin…

  • Canadian Finance April 22, 2009, 2:44 pm

    I don’t think I would purposely save extra to be able to leave something when I die. But my will will be done up in what is probably the usual way… everything left to wife if she outlives me, split between children otherwise.

  • InvestAssetWealth April 22, 2009, 3:08 pm

    Teaching your child “how” to make money and maintain wealth is the most important part. What you leave behind to them is insignificant. I agree with FrugalTrader, nice to lend a hand while you are still earning and healthy.

    There comes a point in any savers life where they begin to relax and realize the fruits of their labour. Not to say its necessary to blow every last cent before your under a tomb stone, but you should enjoy. I don’t expect anything from my parents, and to be honest I sincerely hope they enjoy with what they have.

    If you have an abundance of money, riches, say approximately greater than 10 million, well… then it would be nice to donate a percentage to charity. Else if you are just a regular middle class worker / saver, it may not be realistic to be a donor.

    Great discussion, very thought provoking!

    InvestAssetWealth

  • Brad Castro April 22, 2009, 4:41 pm

    All I can guarantee I’m leaving behind is a good library and a lot of clutter.

  • fern April 22, 2009, 5:22 pm

    I’m single and have no kids. In my will everything left over would be equally portioned out to:sister, 2 half brothers and charities, each getting one-quarter However, named beneficiaries on my stock investments are more skewed toward charities,and privately, i’d prefer to leave everything to my favorite environmental charities. I’ve never been close to my sister or half-brother so why should i enrich people who never reach out while i’m alive? And i assume my parents will be gone before me.

    Actually, the $ is the easy part. The conundrum for me is what to do with some cherished personal possessions that i would like to keep in the family. My sister’s older than me, so would make sense to leave it to my brothers, but i don’t know if they’d value these things the way i do. Better than having it end up in an anonymous estate sale, i guess.

  • Frequent Reader April 22, 2009, 7:19 pm

    I agree with helping out in early years and major milestones as FT put it. And I would certainly want to make sure that those of my generation are comfortable and the succeeding generation (kids) are at least meeting their basic needs.

    But beyond that… I would say it all goes to charity… for similar reasons to Warren Buffet’s opposition to the elimination of estate taxes as a stepping stone to plutocracy.

  • GTP April 22, 2009, 11:16 pm

    My parents and I have been talking about this one for a little while now as well. They took a similar approach as Ive been reading: they bought me my first car (used, of course), helped me through university and gave me my first down payment. I’m pretty well set up and have no complaints, but it isn’t the same for all of my siblings. My parents want to leave money behind to help out my sister, and, being equal opportunity, I’ll probably get the same.
    As was mentioned above, an inheritance is like winning the lotto – It will likely be gone very soon. I didn’t hear of anyone talking about setting up an annuity?? I know annuities have terrible payouts, but what about a trust invested by a trusted financial adviser or something? In this way, money will continually be paid out on a monthly basis but there will never be too much at one time.

    Also, this is probably a really good way to leave an inheritance from a divorce perspective. I know no one plans on being divorced, but after reading about planning for it, I think that this type of inheritance wouldn’t be split in the event of a breakup.

    It seems ideal to me. A large inheritance could be crippling to an irresponsible child, but continuous passive income would be great for anyone.

    Any thoughts on that ??

    GTP

  • csplice April 23, 2009, 12:02 am

    The plan is to set up a testamentary trust for the third generation (me being the first) with the second generation being the trustees.

    This solves a lot of tax issues, and control issue. It is also the best way to keep it in the blood line.

  • cannon_fodder April 23, 2009, 12:21 am

    I haven’t made any plans like that (I hope to have quite a bit more living to do!) but I can see making these arrangements later on.

    One idea I liked is the concept of having your beneficiaries pay for your life insurance to ease the tax burden of any estate assets passing to them. Ultimately, it is for their benefit so they should pay the freight.

    I hope that our children will not need anything to be passed down, that they will all be self-sufficient and comfortable. Like others, I think I will provide more help by winding down certain assets and giving it to them while I can see them enjoy it. Ideally this would mean taking care of their children to give them an easier start to life (should that happen – my wife doesn’t even want to hear a whisper about her becoming a grandmother in the next few years!).

    I certainly don’t expect to see anything of consequence passed down from my parents. As long as we aren’t burdened with their debts, I’d prefer they enjoy their remaining years taking care of themselves rather than worrying about us.

  • John April 23, 2009, 8:47 am

    What about faily inheritance? I mean you get something form you parents and then shouldn’t you pass it to your children.
    It makes you more responsible about the inheritance but it can also have adverse effects.
    Anyone in this situation?

  • FT FrugalTrader April 23, 2009, 9:18 am

    John, do you mean that you received an inheritance from your parents, and you are contemplating whether or not to pass it on to your children?

  • Stephen April 23, 2009, 11:46 am

    I don’t have a definite plan right now … but all I can say is don’t wait until you’re dead to give to charity. You’re not really charitable if you wait until your dead to do it. Make the personal sacrifice now and help those who are truly in need or those causes that are for the greater good.

  • FT FrugalTrader April 23, 2009, 11:59 am

    Stephen, I agree. We are pretty big on charities now (for us) as we plan to be for the remainder of our lives. However, if there’s anything left in the end, most of it will go to charity.

  • Mintycake April 23, 2009, 12:37 pm

    Oooh inheritance…it’s a touchy topic with me. I don’t plan to leave anything to kid (currently no kids) but rather help them a little bit (but not to spoil them) while they are young. My parents did help a little with me but I carried the majority of the costs myself (education, car, first house, wedding). My husbands parents were the same but to a lesser degree.

    I grew up in a family where there was the “promise” of a large inherritance coming…but the older I get the less confident I feel it will be there. I resent that people that sit on money that they have no intention of spending while their kids and grandkids struggle…to me that just isn’t right. An inherritance isn’t going to make that much of a difference to me when I’m 60 but could make a huge difference to the quality of my life at age 30.

  • Kevin April 23, 2009, 6:37 pm

    Its funny what a decade or two will do to your perspective. Currently, I am 22 years old, I concede that I will live until I am 122. That gives me a nice 100 years left on this beautiful planet. In all seriousness though, (mind you with the medical advances in the next 50 years or more until I am in my ‘golden years’ as they are so eloquently put, one never knows) I almost believe I am invincible. I know that is a foolish notion, but a commonly shared one amongst the youth of today. Especially when one does not even have children.

    I am kind of split on this topic however. My parents never gave my siblings nor myself an allowance. Occasionally they would pay us for doing chores or yardwork etc. For the most part, if my two elder brothers and I wanted anything, we would generally find a way to get it. Most of the time it was never handed to us. Which I can really be grateful to my parents for doing. I had a paper route when I was 8-13 or so and I always had money to spend.

    My parents paid for half of my mountain bike when I was 12. After that, we purchased entirely, a computer, Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Gameboys…everything like that. It worked out rather nicely. From 13 and up I always had a part time job. I didn’t go to post secondary, and I know my parents gave my other 3 siblings some money from an educational savings plan.

    I purchased my first car at 18, and my first house at 19 without any help from my parents. And I have no problem with that at all. I am actually glad that I was forced to be self sufficient growing up.

    I have no desire to spoil my future children (assuming I am fortunate enough to have some) however, in the same token, I would not sit back and watch them suffer financially. So I would definitely help them out financially, if they required it. Especially with the basic necessities of life. If they are suffering with credit card debt because of frivilous spending on the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos…I wouldn’t be very sympathetic towards their cause.

    Down payment on a car or house, wedding, and or post secondary or business venture I would have no issue with that either.

  • Daniel Wintschel April 24, 2009, 1:19 am

    Depending on how things work out, my ‘grand plan’ is to not actually have to drain any accumulated wealth in retirement. Hoping to live purely off of CPP (if it’s alive), dividend and other investment yields.

    Ideally I’d like to leave behind a fairly substantial trust that would continue to payout the same income I was earning, but to a few specific charitable organizations. A lofty goal – but I’m only 28, so I’ve got a bit of time to figure it all out.

    Definitely want to leave something for future childrens-to-be (crosses fingers) – but I have yet to figure out what that will look like. I think helping them with major life milestones (school/wedding/house) is almost just as good, maybe even better.

  • Komodo Dragon April 24, 2009, 7:10 am

    I am only 22, so I have not yet really set any goals, on what it is exactly that I will leave behind, although I must say…. instead of avoiding taxes by giving a gift and what not… why not just have let your kids have access to your bank account? Somehow… they can legally have access to it, won’t that solve some tax barriers? Or will they complicate them?

    Till then,

    Jean

  • FT FrugalTrader April 24, 2009, 9:06 am

    Komodo Dragon, as soon you as you pass, your estate is subject to probate fees/taxes. That is besides your RRSP or principal residence that is passed onto your spouse. It’s not as simple as giving the kids access to the bank account.

  • Rob O. April 27, 2009, 4:10 pm

    I’m hopeful that we can instill in him the wisdom & drive to be capable of earning his own way. And I fully understand that there are some real advantages to having to earn the money for your own things. When you’ve had to scrape together pennies to pay for a car and the insurance, you’re much more likely to value that car and care for it accordingly.

    Having had to work for my own college education and knowing how difficult and slow-going that was, I want to ensure that (at least a large percentage) of the needed money is there for my son’s higher education. But again, since I had to pay my own way through school, costly mistakes were felt more deeply. I partied much less and -tried- to apply myself much more than most of my peers, because failing a class had very tangible fiscal repercussions.

    Like others have said, I have no intention of spoiling our son, but I also don’t want to see him miss opportunities because of some rigid sensibility about financial independence.

  • Horlic May 5, 2009, 1:12 pm

    Wah, this is interesting topic. I haven’t really given a thought on this issue. But, I don’t really agree that parents should leave any assets behind. There are too many cases that happen around us especially those rich men left behind the assets and their children are fighting for it. What a shame.

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