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Could My Children Handle Their Inheritance Wisely?

Posted by Bridget Murray | Jun 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

How to Plan for Adult Children When Not All Are Responsible Adults

We love our children equally, but we recognize that they handle money differently. Can we protect the ones who lack financial discipline from squandering their inheritance?

Few families can say that all of their adult children are responsible and skillful when it comes to handling money. You know who your kids are, and you know who will be able to manage an inheritance of any size—and who will blow through it in matter of years, or even months. How can you protect these children while giving the more reliable ones their inheritance with no strings attached?

A recent New Jersey 101.5 article, "How to plan for spendthrift children," recommends the use of a trust. Trusts are used in estate planning to restrict the use of assets by the beneficiaries and/or to protect the inherited assets from the creditors of the beneficiaries.

A trust for children can be established in the parent's will or other testamentary documents—like a revocable trust—which will be effective upon his or her death. Another way to do this is to create a trust in a separate trust document during the parent's lifetime. This is then funded during his or her lifetime and/or by a direction in the will at death.

The parent will have to designate a trustee to administer the trust. This can be an individual or a financial institution or a combination of both. This should be a trusted individual who will make distributions to the child in his or her best interest and in accordance with the terms of the trust.

Trustees are typically entitled to be compensated, but that compensation can be waived or set in a separate agreement.

For example, the trust can set forth the terms of distribution. This language can be very broad—such as "in my trustee's discretion"—or more defined—such as "in my trustee's discretion for the benefit of my child's health, education and welfare after taking into consideration all other income and assets available to my child."

Another option is to consider staggering the distribution of funds so that they are made at specific ages (e.g., 21, 30, or 40) or for specific purposes like education or a first home. A spendthrift provision in the trust, which may not be necessary, shows the parent's intention that the beneficiary was not to have the voluntary or involuntary right to assign rights or assets in the trust to third parties, especially his or her creditors.

An estate planning attorney will be able to help you figure out the strategy that best suits your situation and that will best protect your children and your legacy.

ReferenceNew Jersey 101.5 (May 5, 2016) "How to plan for spendthrift children"

About the Author

Bridget Murray

Attorney at Law, Principal Attorney Murray has been practicing in the area of Estate Planning for 20 years. Prior to becoming an attorney, she wrote for The Economist in Tokyo, worked as a financial analyst for State Street Bank, and earned an MBA in International Management (Thunderbird School ...


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