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Are Americans changing their views about leaving inheritances?

Is there a generational shift in attitudes about estate planning? According to a recent survey, nearly one-quarter of Americans are saving less, preferring to spend their savings in retirement instead of passing it on to their children.

What does that data mean to individuals planning their retirement liquidity and estate plans? A conservative approach would be to calculate one’s retirement cash flow without relying on inheritances from parents. However, one commentator suggests that the nature of giving may simply have transformed. Specifically, parents may be giving more to children and loved ones during their lifetimes, instead of saving it for a lump sum distribution in a last will and testament. The commentator characterizes this approach as a kind of living inheritance.

Additional survey data provides support for the commentator’s theory. Specifically, 10 percent of the survey respondents who were retirees indicated they were still supporting one or more adult children, and 43 percent were supporting at least one other person.

A variety of estate-planning tools can help individuals transfer assets or cash to loved ones during their lifetimes. A revocable trust is one such option. Although this type of trust doesn’t offer tax advantages to the settlor, it does establish a framework that can be modified at will. In addition, the trust generally becomes irrevocable after the creator’s death, and thus the assets in the trust will generally bypass probate.

Best of all, creating a revocable trust can start the discussion about retirement planning and encourage individuals to create an inventory of their assets. In the event of unanticipated incapacity or death, that organization and proactive planning will be of great utility to surviving loved ones. 

Source: Huffington Post, “Americans Are Leaving Less Money In Their Wills, But Not For The Reason You Think,” Buck Wargo, May 13, 2015

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