Most parents (even parents of adult children) want to provide for their children—but not necessarily right away, and maybe not all at once. According to a recent article in Barron’s, “A growing number of parents are shunning the time-honored practice of handing big inheritances to their children when they turn 21. Instead, they’re waiting until the kiddies are in their 30s and 40s.”
The reason for this is that more and more parents are coming to realize that there is a learning curve associated with handling large sums of money, and dropping a large inheritance in your child’s lap may be giving he or she more than they can reasonably handle all at once, essentially setting your child up for failure. “Premature distributions to heirs can have the same effect as the jackpot has on lottery winners… The money becomes a burden, and your child may not fully develop into the adult you hope to raise.”
Luckily, if you don’t want to bequeath a fortune to your children all at once, you have a number of options for ensuring your children are provided for and eventually receive the inheritance you intend for them. As mentioned in the Barron’s article, some of the most popular strategies include passing an inheritance through either a revocable or an irrevocable trust. A trust allows a parent to transfer assets to their children while still retaining control of when and how the assets will be distributed. Of these two options, a revocable trust can provide more flexibility, while an irrevocable trust can provide more asset protection, although both kinds of trusts provide a measure of each. You will want to discuss with your estate planning attorney which option will work best for your family.
With either trust option parents can choose to simply keep the inheritance in trust until the child reaches a certain age, or distribute funds slowly over the course of time, to better acquaint the recipient with the responsibilities of wealth. It is wise to give thought to how you wish to structure your gift to your children, especially if you feel they may be unprepared in their early years to receive your legacy.