Last Christmas, the only thing on my older children’s Christmas list was a laptop computer. As they have gotten older, school assignments have increasingly required access to one. Teachers post assignments online. Many assignments are done online, or require essays that need to be typed.
So, when my dad asked what my children wanted for Christmas, I mentioned the laptop. “Great,” he said. “Just get them what they want, and I’ll pay for it.” They chose their computer, all the while knowing that it was a gift from their Grandpapa.
It brought my dad great pleasure knowing that he had been able to fund the purchase of something they really wanted and needed. And each time my children use their computers, they think of my dad’s thoughtful gift.
Whether you’ve accumulated a lot of wealth or a little in your lifetime, chances are you have some specific ideas about how you would like those assets to be used by family members when you die. Perhaps you’d like the money your family members inherit to fund a dream family vacation, part of a grandchild’s college education, or a down payment on a house.
Unfortunately, without specific guidance, money left outright will likely not be used the way you would have wanted. It will likely be added to a general bank account to be used on general family expenses. As the months or years go by, the funds may dwindle away, with little to show for it.
Things could be different if the assets were left in trust with specific guidelines on how the assets should be used. Trusts aren’t just for the wealthy. They don’t have to be restrictive, and you can even name your beneficiary as the trustee of the trust, giving them the ability to access the funds for the purposes you’ve intended.
Regardless of whether the amount is large or small, it would allow your loved ones to take that trip, pay a year’s worth of tuition, or pay down the balance of their house, realizing all the while that it was your generosity made it all possible.