Family Discussions: The Taboo Of Inheritance

While wealthier benefactors are more likely to have a will in place, this does not mean they
have discussed their plans with their heirs.

The global financial advice firm UBS questioned US investors about what they had done
when it came to writing a will and discussing their plans with family members. As you might
expect, the topic proved a sensitive one, meaning that relatives were often in the dark about
what parents intended.

Of the people UBS surveyed, 83 percent had an up-to-date will, but only 54 percent had
discussed plans with their children and 34 percent had told them how much money they
had. A man quoted in the survey said the thought of his demise was so emotional for him
and his daughters that he avoided discussing the issue.

When it came to wealthier benefactors (investors with $1 million or more), 87 percent said
they had a will but again, only 55 percent had discussed their plans with their heirs.

One of the survey’s findings was that benefactors and heirs disagreed about what was
stopping them having conversations about inheritance plans. Nineteen percent of
benefactors said financial issues weren’t talked openly about – 46 percent of heirs offered
this as an excuse. Some 32 percent of benefactors didn’t want their kids to count on an
inheritance, whereas 7 percent of heirs felt their parents didn’t want them to assume money
was coming their way.

Where everyone agreed, however, was that benefactors should initiate discussion of plans
for inheritance. One young man said he didn’t feel comfortable bringing up his parents’
plans for their money – it was less awkward if they started the discussion.

Another finding was that benefactors often consider multiple generations – and that they
prefer to pass on money while still living, 60 percent of people stating this was their wish.
Parents often offer support to children by giving them money for college fees for

UBS asked heirs what they wished their parents had done differently – and what they
themselves would do. Some 34 percent of heirs said they wished their parents had done it
differently, and 72 percent planned a different approach when it came to passing on their
own wealth, with people saying they wanted to be “very open and forthcoming” with their

Read the article in full at Forbes business magazine.

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