Tag Archives: estate planning

Trusts–No Panacea To Retaining Family Wealth

When passing wealth to your kids, consider creating a trust to limit the later generation’s ability to tap into the principal. Several astute readers suggested this strategy after my recent column citing research that shows 90% of inherited wealth is gone by the third generation.

There is no question that a trust, done correctly, can go a long way to preserve wealth after the death of the wealth accumulator. Let’s explore what “done correctly” means.

1. Trust law is complex. Engage an accountant and attorney with strong skills and expertise in trusts.

2. Be sure the assets you intend to go into the trust will actually transfer.

Retirement plans like IRA’s, 401(k)’s, and profit sharing plans will pass to whomever you listed as the beneficiary. This must be the trust. In addition, the trust must include a number of special provisions in order for a retirement plan to be distributed according to your wishes and not as a fully taxable lump sum.

Annuities, insurance policies, and accounts with a TOD (transfer on death) clause will also pass to the named beneficiary.

Assets held in joint tenancy will not pass to the trust. Many married couples jointly own most of their major assets, such as the family home, investment real estate, brokerage accounts, or bank accounts.

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Leaving Money to Your Kids–Or Not

“I’ve never seen money passed from one generation to another in a manner that actually benefited the recipient.” When a psychologist said this to me several years ago, I was dumbfounded.

Many parents scrimp, save, and sacrifice so they can “leave something to the kids” with the intention of doing them good. It’s hard to accept that inheritances may actually do harm instead. Most of us have money scripts that don’t support this idea.

Typically, I used to hold several money scripts around inheritances. One was that leaving money to your children is a loving thing to do. Another was that parents should always leave their money to their children. A third was that anyone who received an inheritance would invest it wisely, using only the earnings to improve their lives.

Today I know those money scripts were not universal truths. I have more understanding of the problems involved in giving money away in a manner that is beneficial to the receiver. It isn’t as easy as I once thought.

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