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7 Paradoxes of Inheritance

When they hear the word “inheritance,” most people run. We typically associate inheritance with estate planning, which traditionally means working with lawyers, talking about death, and confronting difficult issues with children.

A 2012 survey by Alliance reveals some troubling paradoxes about the idea of inheritance:

  1. The Desire to Avoid Conflict – The number one concern by far of Boomers and the Elder Generation in planning inheritance was to avoid conflict among family members after passing away.
  2. Conversations Not Happening – Although Boomers and Elders wanted to avoid future conflict, nearly 50 percent of Boomers and 40 percent of Elders had not initiated a conversation with family members about any legacy topics. (Of course, if you want to avoid conflict later, you have to begin having the conversations now.)
  3. “It’s My Responsibility” – Interestingly, 78 percent of Elders and 48 percent of Boomers believed it was their responsibility to initiate the inheritance conversation. In other words, while they desired to avoid conflict and recognized the conversation was their responsibility, most had not initiated any meaningful conversation.
  4. Where’s the Help? – Despite recognizing the need for the conversation and not knowing how to initiate it, only 48 percent of Boomers had sought professional assistance in planning inheritance. In contrast, 76 percent of Elders had engaged professional assistance.
  5. Advisor Profiles Changing – The profile of the financial advisor is changing. It used to be a given that a large firm was better, but now clients value a more personal touch. Boomers (78 percent) and Elders (75 percent) felt the key was the ability to explain things in an easy-to-understand way, and 90 percent said that trustworthiness was also key.
  6. Compassion vs. Expertise – Similarly, the majority of those surveyed said that they were not looking for advisors who were merely compassionate, but instead who offered financial acumen and expertise.
  7. Stories Before Finances – On the positive front, more people recognized that inheritance is more than money. It’s the family story. Boomers (75 percent) and Elders (53 percent) said, “It is extremely important to me that future generations remember my parents and what mattered to them.”

Most people want to pass on family stories and values as a first priority. Similarly, they want to avoid family conflict, and they realize the responsibility for the conversation is theirs. Sadly, though, they’re not having the conversation or seeking out an advisor’s help.

Isn’t it time to start?

About Bill High

Bill High is an author of several books and co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously: www.givingitallawaybook.com. You can find him at www.billhigh.com and sign up for his blogs there.

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