As a wills and trusts attorney, frequently, clients or friends ask me how they or their parents can prevent young, adult beneficiaries from wasting their “hard-earned” inheritance. I explain that this can be managed in at least 5 ways:
- Use hard cold facts and an iron club. Tell them that the money was hard-earned by you and don’t leave them anything but a videotape of the family history. Leave all the money and possessions to charity.
- Bribe the youngsters and hope for the best. Of course, these are 2 actions that make most lawyers’ skin crawl.
- Educate the little people from the time they get their first piggy bank from Grandpa.
- Use conditional provisions that don’t “offend public policy.” This means that, while you can’t disinherit your child from marrying outside his ethnicity and can’t tell him he won’t get a dime unless he divorces his current spouse, you can cut the cord if he becomes a lifetime criminal. You can shorten the cord if she becomes a lifetime substance abuser. And you can make the cord’s length dependent on grades and gainful employment.
- “Staggered mentoring,” which I’ve mentioned before, is another tool. With a “staggered mentoring” provision, Grandpa leaves Hermoine 30% of her pot of gold when she turns 25, another 30% when she turns 30, and the balance at the age of 35.
My favorite is a combination of 3 through 5, but as my favorite contracts professor said, “If it walks like a duck and squawks like a duck, it ain’t a beagle.” So, if Hermoine’s been in and out of jail since the age of 16 and she’s 25 now, education, at least of the financial planning kind, isn’t probably going to work.