Will I be selfish if I reject my children’s idea of early inheritance?
| Special to USA TODAYWoman leaves $300k inheritance to beloved catsNow that’s really the cat’s meow.USA TODAYMy daughter and her husband keep bringing up the concept of an early inheritance. My husband and I do plan on leaving them and our son’s family whatever is leftover upon my and my husband’s death, but we don’t really feel compelled to give either child money now. I feel like I’d grow to resent their financial decisions, as I already view their financial prudence to be lacking. Yet, she keeps bringing it up. Am I being selfish?– Mary, Alexandria, VirginiaYou are absolutely not being selfish. My goal in addressing your email is to give you a bit of perspective about living inheritances, without driving a wedge between you and the people asking for one. Because frankly asking for an inheritance, whether it’s given now or later, is rather uncomfortable.Years ago, I read an essay about how younger generations have been mislabeled as “entitled.” You hear these younger groups described that way from time to time, and culturally it feels as though this mislabeling has stuck.The essay went on to suggest that younger generations don’t necessarily suffer from entitlement issues, but instead have become expectant. And in many respects, expectancy isn’t a bad thing. But there are instances in which being expectant is part of a negative experience.I believe the situation you described is a result of your daughter’s expectancy, and in this instance, it’s causing negative feelings.Her assumptions, which have led to her expectancy, are understandable. In the spirit of expediency, I’ll be blunt. She knows you have lots of money, she knows you’ll likely die before her, and by default, she’ll get some of that money. You can’t blame her for these observations, as they’re rather reasonable. The issue is what your daughter and husband have chosen to do with this information.When a person “knows” they’ll be receiving copious amounts of money in the future, they generally behave differently. In fact, they tend to walk around with a proverbial get-out-of-jail-free card. This can lead to bad financial decisions and less-than-ideal stability. If I had to guess, I think this is exactly what has happened to your daughter and son-in-law. The mere awareness that money is coming down the pike, has led to their lack of prudence. And now they apparently need the inheritance, sooner rather than later, to ease the burden of their imprudence.My experience tells me a living inheritance would do them more harm than good. And besides, like you, I feel the ask itself is uncouth. I appreciate the honesty and forthrightness of the ask, but their financial situation, which doesn’t sound dire, isn’t your problem to solve. Your daughter’s insistence on moving the timeline up is the keystone to the awkwardness. You and your husband should decide exactly what you’d like to do, and then make those intentions clear. She doesn’t get a vote.You do have the option to gift her and her family money in a tax-advantaged way, but even that will lead you to the same feared outcome. Your daughter and her husband need to mentally remove you as their backup plan, because if they don’t, they will struggle until the day both you and your husband die.Also, it might not make financial sense for you to give away your money now. You wouldn’t be the first person to be wrong about the sustainability of your own financial future. If you haven’t already, talk to your financial advisor about what your likely estate will be assuming a long retirement. You might find the inheritance both you and your kids have always assumed would be there might not be as big as you thought.Ultimately, your problem begins to be solved with a very honest conversation. If, by chance, your financial advisor tells you that you aren’t as solid as you thought, let that become the primary sharing point with your kids. And if you are as financially solid as you thought, then your conversation needs to revolve around your plans to leave behind whatever is left over.Your kids need to walk away from that meeting knowing that their financial futures are in their own hands, not yours.Peter Dunn is an author, speaker and radio host and he has a free podcast: “Million Dollar Plan.” Have a question for Pete the Planner? Email him at AskPete@petetheplanner.com. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.