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Is there such a thing as “too much” inheritance?

A recent publication in The Atlantic estimates over 1.4 million American households hold over $5 million in assets. With such large wealth in the country, many are starting to ask whether there is such a thing as “too much” inheritance. For many wealthy families, the question stems from a concern that future generations should be encouraged to be productive members of society instead of planning for a future of financial stability thanks to the cushion of a large inheritance.

So how much is the right amount? Parents who find themselves grappling with this question are wise to know there is not a single right answer. The best choice depends on the details of each family’s situation. However, some questions to help guide your decision can include:

  • What do I want the inheritance to achieve? Are you aiming to provide your kids with a comfortable lifestyle, help buy a home in a good neighborhood, fund college for grandchildren or all the above?
  • How much is needed to meet this goal? Once you determine your goals, get an idea of how much it would cost to achieve the goals. Then set aside an estimated sum to make it a reality.
  • How much can the heir handle? In some cases, too large an inheritance too soon can lead to poor financial or lifestyle choices. You can help mitigate the risk of this problem by using a trust to distribute the inheritance over a period of time as opposed to giving the inheritance to the heir all at once.

It is also important to point out each family member may have different needs. In these cases, a fair inheritance may not translate to equal amounts to each heir. Examples can include a child with special needs who requires additional funds in the form of a trust, or a child who has chosen a profession that focuses on community service as opposed to financial gain.

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