How to avoid leaving your loved ones with “inheritor’s guilt”

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2022 | Estate Planning

You likely want the assets you’re able to leave your loved ones in your estate plan to make their lives easier. Maybe they can buy a larger home, worry less about how they’re going to pay for their kids’ college educations, put away some extra money for retirement and enjoy some travel. 

You certainly don’t want them to feel guilty about their inheritances. Unfortunately, that can happen when people are left with an unexpectedly large inheritance.  It’s called “inheritor’s guilt.”

That guilt can stem from all kinds of things. If adult children have seen their parents live a frugal, modest lifestyle and then end up inheriting hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, it can be jarring. It can also be difficult to spend it on a lifestyle their parents never had. 

Sometimes, inheritor’s guilt strikes those who have always been able to live a comfortable life thanks to their parents’ hard work and everything they were able to build. They may feel deep down that they aren’t deserving of it and potentially waste it.

Communication while you’re still around can help

You can help avoid these feelings by discussing your estate plan with your loved ones while you’re still around. It can help to let them know how you envision them using the money. This doesn’t have to be a directive. (You can do that to some extent with a trust or by gifting assets during your life.) You can also let them know that you expect them to use some of it purely for enjoyment.

You don’t need to discuss specific dollar amounts with your family. Those could change between now and the end of your life anyway. However, if you can give them some idea of the kind of inheritance they can expect, it can take some of the shock out of it later. 

If you can afford to start gifting some of your assets to your children and grandchildren now, that can have some tax benefits for them and for your estate. It can also give you a chance to help them manage the money. By having experienced legal guidance, you can help ensure that you’re making the best choices for yourself and your loved ones.