Manage Child Inheritance

How to Help Manage a Child’s Inheritance

In Estate Planning, Family Wealth, Next Gen by Brad Stark


By Brad Stark, MS, CFP
Founder and Chief Compliance Officer

As "baby boomers" age into retirement and a lot of trusts set up by the grandparents years ago begin distributing funds to the grandkids (typically by ages 25-35), many of our clients are wondering how to counsel their adult children on using this windfall. Regardless of the source of funds, many parents are grappling with the issue of how much money is appropriate for their grown child and how the funds can either enhance their lives or potentially send them down a negative path.
Money can do amazing things but it also can cause damage. We have seen instances where it helps fund intellect, creativity, job creation and community support. But we have also seen it perpetuate self-destructive behaviors.
Whenever someone receives a large sum of money, responsibility will follow. Some kids may find it their responsibility to spend it - though, of course, the parents think it is wiser to save it for the future. The problem is that once a child is over the age of 18, parents are not able to make their decisions for them. However, parents can help educate them on their options, and parents generally have the ability to “penalize” them in alternative ways if they mismanage the money.
Here are a couple of thoughts on how to help manage a child’s inheritance:

  1. Start financial education early. If you know your young child will receive an inheritance when they grow up, the time to start is now. We have counseled thousands of families over the years, and one thing we can say with absolute certainty is that most adults don’t change habits. So if you want to influence your children to be “savers,” you have to start the lessons very early in life. Trying to implement new moral standards on a 25-year-old is virtually impossible, from experience.
  2. Support the creation of a financial plan and a budget. People gravitate away from pain and seek pleasure. Not a big surprise. So if you want your children to do the “right” thing when inheriting money, you often need to help them understand the consequences of decisions and the future pain they may avoid at the cost of immediate pleasure. That means helping them with a financial plan and creating a budget. Mission Wealth offers educational services to the children of clients, in addition to hosting intergenerational family meetings, which may be helpful in passing on financial values and discipline to your children.
  3. Do not let them overextend themselves. When people don’t earn the money they receive, they can have a tendency to create a lifestyle that is not sustainable. Money “in” becomes money “out.” You’ve likely read some of stories of lottery winners going bankrupt a few years out from hitting it big. Helping the child set up a fixed amount as a monthly income (or “allowance”) from the funds could provide enough for the child to avoid invading the principal.
  4. Evaluate and then potentially reassess future plans. When a child receives money while a parent is alive, it offers a tremendous opportunity. If the child is responsible, then it helps validate the future estate plans of the parents. If the child is reckless with the money and acts in ways not to the liking of the parents, it allows them to alter their plans such as by changing distribution schedules or - in extreme cases - by disinheriting them (i.e., by giving money to charities or extended family members).

Whether your goal is to leave your estate to heirs or charity, to minimize taxes or to maximize lifetime giving, we are here to provide clarity and direction. At Mission Wealth, we have the knowledge to guide you through all phases of your estate plan to ensure that your wealth is directed as you intend.

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Founder and Chief Strategy Officer

Brad is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Mission Wealth, which has been recognized as one of America’s “Top Wealth Managers.” Brad is also a member of the firm’s Leadership Team and Investment committee. It is his visionary excellence in the financial industry that drives the strategic direction of the firm.


Founder and Chief Compliance Officer

About the Author
Brad works directly with a select list of clients and is responsible for the Southern California Group as well as Compliance functions of the firm. As a member of the Executive and Investment Committees, he contributes to the firm direction and client experience