Half of Baby Boomers to Leave Inheritance to Kids

Jun 18, 2012 6:00am
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Trillions of dollars in wealth are expected to be transferred from the generation of Baby Boomers who die in the next half-century, but their offspring shouldn’t be expecting a cash windfall.

Only 55 percent of Baby Boomers think it is important to leave a financial inheritance to their children, according to the U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth annual study.

U.S. Trust commissioned an independent, national survey of 642 high net worth adults, who were not clients, with at least $3 million in investable assets.

The study, released on Monday, includes findings on a number of subjects, including elder care planning, estate planning, and the wealthy survey respondents’ thoughts about charitable giving.

Only 44 percent of those surveyed think the wealthy have a responsibility to “pass their wealth to the next generation.”

Of Baby Boomers surveyed, 31 percent don’t think it is important to leave a financial inheritance and said they would rather leave money to charity than to their children.

The study defined the Baby Boom generation as those aged 47 to 66.

“Between now and 2050, there are going to be trillions of dollars of wealth that will transfer to children and other heirs and what’s interesting is high net worth parents worry now that their children are not prepared to inherit wealth that will be theirs one day,” said Keith Banks, president of U.S. Trusts.

The top reason for not wanting to leave an inheritance are the beliefs that each generation should earn its own wealth (57 percent). Following closely behind that, 54 percent believe it is more important to invest in children’s success while they are growing up.

Kathleen Taylor, 63, of Chimacum, Wash., taught her two grown children since they were young to be responsible for their own money. That’s why she plans to leave most of her money to her children and some money to charitable causes.

One way they taught their children about responsible spending was providing the value of college tuition, room and board to each of them to manage.

Their oldest child, Ann, works in insurance after attending the University of Oregon.

“We gave it to her at the first of each quarter and she was in charge of paying the bills,” Taylor said of their daughter, now 33. “People thought we were crazy.”

Taylor, who retired from working in the insurance industry in 2006, and her husband, who retired from information technology also that year, used the same system for their son, Carl, 29, who works at a startup.

“They came through that just fine,” she said. “I have confidence they’ll still do that with their inheritance.”

Taylor and her husband plan to start a college fund once their children, who are both married without kids, start having their own kids. And they intend to add to it on their grandchildren’s birthdays as long as Taylor and her husband are alive.

That’s what Taylor’s parents did for her children, and she hopes her own children will do the same for their great-grandchildren.

One lesson she learned about giving money to offspring is start early.

“Start giving them money to manage and make sure they understand how to do it,” said Taylor.  ”If they make a mistake and fail, hopefully they’ll learn something.”

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