MONEY Estate Planning

Keep Your Kids from Blowing Their Inheritance

You’ve saved enough to leave a parting gift for the kids, but will they use their inheritance wisely?

You’re not alone if you’re concerned: 35% of people are crafting their estate plans to avoid mismanagement of money by their heirs, a recent survey from WealthCounsel found. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do now to make sure your children won’t have you rolling in your grave.

Prep them for what’s coming

Don’t let your will reading be the first time an heir hears about his inheritance. Meet with adult beneficiaries to lay out your desires for your legacy.

“Children who talk with their parents about this are much more responsible in planning for their future with the money,” says Waltham, Mass., financial planner Lea Ann Knight. She suggests giving kids the option to see a financial adviser or take a finance course if they’ll inherit more than 50% of their income. That way, you can rest assured that they will avoid missteps due to financial ignorance.

Give them practice

Consider passing down some cash during your lifetime so that you can guide your heirs while you’re still around, suggests Ann Arbor financial planner David Shotwell.

Related: 10 Steps to Painless Estate Planning

You and your spouse can each give up to $14,000 per person in 2013 without having to report the gifts to the IRS or having them count against your estate tax exemption. “Kids will make mistakes,” adds Knight. “This way they can make them without blowing the whole inheritance.”

Trust a trustee

A trust helps guarantee that your legacy is used as you intended. This document, which can be drafted by an estate attorney for $1,600 to $3,000, places the management of funds into the hands of someone you appoint, be it a friend, family member, or third party like a bank. You can leave instructions on when the money will be doled out.

Related: Find the Right Financial Planner

A third party will follow these to the letter, while a person who knows you can exercise judgment on what you’d want for your child, says Jonathan Blattmachr of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.

Attach some strings

You can include additional hoops within a trust. Incentive trusts force an heir to meet requirements to receive funds, like earning a degree or passing a drug test; staggered trusts pay out incrementally, giving heirs a chance to mature as money is disbursed. Such arrangements can cause resentment, so explain yourself and treat each beneficiary independently.

Also, beware of making guidelines too strict. “The more structured the trust,” says Austin financial planner Natalie Pine, “the more likely it’ll do something you didn’t intend.”

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