Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What's The Best Age to Release the Inheritance?

A significant part of my practice involves drafting testamentary trusts for parents with young children, usually aged 18 or younger.  A testamentary trust is a will that says I leave my probate assets to my spouse, but if my spouse has predeceased, then to a trust for my children.  This type of trust does not exist until both parents are deceased, and is created as part of the probate process.  It is not the same as a living revocable trust, which is created during life to hold assets while you are alive.
When creating a testamentary trust parents need to name a primary and secondary trustee. This is the person (or institution) that will invest the funds in the trust, file tax returns, and decide on how the monies are spent until the trust ends.  Which leads to the next question, when does the trust end?  "Most clients write until my youngest living child reaches age 25 or 28" is what I share with my clients.  "Personally, my wills says until my youngest living child reaches age 30 -- I adore my children, but I am aware of studies indicating the brain is still growing and forming into the mid-20s."

Often times clients are stunned when they hear the number 30, and question my decision.  Then I go on with more stories from my personal experience.  At the age of 40 I had lost both of my parents and received a small inheritance.  And I could not believe how many friends and family were encouraging me to "spend a little" on myself.  Day in and out for nearly as year people would say "come on, you've been through hell, treat yourself".  For a brief time I thought they were right. -- "a simple pair of diamond stud earrings would be practical, something I could wear for work, and one day pass on to my daughter" -- was a pattern of thought I had daily.  Then I looked at the prices, and there were more zeros than my frugal heart could handle.  In the end I bought piece of mind and put the inheritance in a brokerage account.

My fake diamond earrings are a standard piece of my work attire, and so now is this nugget to think about.....your child may be lovely, stable, and frugal.....but when they get an inheritance all the "shoppers" in their life will be more than eager to help them spend the money.  In the end a client sets the age they feel is right for their family.  But when making that decision, factor in the influence of others, both those who mean well and those who may want to take advantage of someone grieving.

Winter Break 2016 we took a road trip to Arkansas and went to Crater of Diamonds State Park, the only pubic park in the US where someone can dig for diamonds.  If you find one, you keep it.

The perfect way for the kids, then 8 and 6, to spend an afternoon.  Digging in the mud.  No diamonds were found.  And that is the closets I'll ever get to acquiring real diamonds.