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I am regularly asked by clients what age I recommend for their children or grandchildren to receive a portion of their inheritance. This is a very difficult question, because all people are different. I cannot generally make these decisions for my clients, but there are many things to think about, and some are illustrated by the lives of celebrities.

Princess Diana’s will provided for her two sons, Harry and William, to receive a portion of their inheritance in their 20’s, and the balance when they reached the ripe old age of 30. That was a substantial balance (in the millions of dollars). Robin Williams, however, left his children their inheritance at the age of 21. Having myself four children who have reached the age of 21, I am not sure I would have wanted them to receive a large amount of money at that age, because of a lack of perspective. I trust my children and love them, but 21 is very young when considering leaving a large amount of money in a lump sum.

An illustration of this problem arises when people win the lottery or become sports stars with large signing bonuses. Mostly, they blow the money. They do not adequately provide for their future, and we know of many professional athletes (Curt Schilling investing all of his earnings into a video game company that collapsed) and former lottery winners who are completely broke, and have nothing to show for all the money they received. It is, therefore, important to train and prepare those over whom we have influence, to be ready to receive their inheritance. I believe this is a seriously deficient aspect in society in general. There is too little thought given to helping our young people to budget their money wisely, deciding when or whether they should borrow money for a student loan, a home or a reasonable car, or how to invest for the future. The fact is, most people have no training at all in these areas, and therefore, make terrible mistakes, and squander the benefit of those large influxes of cash.

In short, I believe that it is important for parents and grandparents not only to seriously consider what age a person should receive an inheritance, but also to properly prepare them for it. There are many resources available to help, both online, and from personal consultants, and many of them do not cost money. Yet they are valuable, because of the problems they help avoid. That would be the gift that keeps on giving.

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