I’ll do it my way

Dis­cussing in­her­i­tance is too im­por­tant to be left un­til some­one has died, says Ge­orgina Lawton

The Guardian - Family - - Family - @Ge­orginaLaw­ton

In­her­i­tance, a fan­tas­ti­cally awk­ward fa­mil­ial topic dur­ing life and af­ter death, can ease – or cause – se­ri­ous stress. It is never con­ve­nient to dis­cuss taxes and wills with your dad, or re­veal to your aunt that you are not that in­ter­ested in the heir­looms that have been in the fam­ily for, oh, cen­turies. But, then again, squab­bling with your sib­lings over the sil­ver af­ter the fu­neral doesn’t seem ap­peal­ing ei­ther. It is all strange and mor­bid be­cause, when­ever you have it, the con­ver­sa­tion about in­her­i­tance is pred­i­cated on one omi­nous cer­tainty: that the peo­ple we love are go­ing to die. I don’t know if a guide­book on in­her­i­tance eti­quette ex­ists, but with re­search sug­gest­ing that mil­len­ni­als are set to in­herit more than any post­war gen­er­a­tion, per­haps now is the time to pub­lish one.

Data from the Res­o­lu­tion Foun­da­tion re­vealed that in­her­i­ta­ble wealth for those cur­rently aged 20-35 will dou­ble in the next two decades, reach­ing an all-time peak in 2035. The big­gest catch is that the av­er­age age at which most peo­ple will ben­e­fit is 61. The re­port also high­lighted that this mega trans­fer of wealth will fur­ther en­trench so­ci­etal in­equal­ity in our life­times; peo­ple tend to cou­ple up with those of a sim­i­lar fi­nan­cial back­ground, and more than 80% of mil­len­ni­als who al­ready own their home have par­ents who are home­own­ers, whereas nearly half of non-home­own­ing mil­len­ni­als have par­ents who don’t own their homes.

For many, then, this news won’t af­fect them in the slight­est. The re­port in­di­cated that about a third will have no prop­erty wealth to in­herit and those of us who do will find that it comes far too late to al­le­vi­ate life’s big­gest fi­nan­cial bur­dens – chil­dren and houses.

Say­ing that, in­her­i­tance should be a topic raised by fam­i­lies while they are still alive, to re­duce the risk of post­fu­neral fam­ily feud­ing and pro­vide clar­ity con­cern­ing parental wishes and plans. It is a shame that so many of us find it all too awk­ward.

I re­mem­ber the knot­ted dread that bound my stom­ach aged eight or so, when my grand­par­ents sat my dad, his sib­lings and us kids down on the sofa to ex­plain their thoughts when it came to divvy­ing up their items. Back then, the idea of ex­ist­ing with­out any of them felt un­cer­tain and hazy, like a mi­rage.

Then, many years later, be­fore my fa­ther got sick and the tor­nado of all that was yet to hap­pen to us was just a grey dot on a dis­tant hori­zon, he used to joke about me and my brother in­her­it­ing our small, sub­ur­ban home when he wanted a favour around the house. “This will all be yours when

It felt in­sult­ing to dis­cuss money when my dad was bat­tling cancer, but it gave him com­fort that ev­ery­thing was in place

I’m gooooone,” he would boom in a mock-ghoul­ish tone, drag­ging out the vow­els for dra­matic ef­fect. He would smile and say: “So you bet­ter prac­tice look­ing af­ter it now.” He even man­aged to keep up the old joke af­ter his ter­mi­nal di­ag­no­sis. It felt in­sanely ridicu­lous – even in­sult­ing to him at times – to dis­cuss some­thing as triv­ial as money when he was bat­tling a ven­omous cancer, but I know it gave him great com­fort to en­sure that ev­ery­thing was in place for me, my mum and my brother af­ter he died.

I re­alise how lucky I am that I had such a car­ing and con­sci­en­tious fa­ther, who spent most of his life plan­ning ahead for my ben­e­fit. I have no­ticed re­cently, though, that other friends who have sick or el­derly par­ents are also start­ing to have dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions about money – but this shouldn’t just be done in the face of death, we should start while we are all alive and well.

Fi­nances are of­ten a taboo topic among fam­i­lies, and ap­proach­ing in­her­i­tance the wrong way can come across as dis­re­spect­ful and pushy at best – and at worst, it can oblit­er­ate re­la­tion­ships. How­ever, re­search such as that from the Res­o­lu­tion Foun­da­tion, could help to spark im­por­tant dis­cus­sions about in­her­i­tance now, be­fore it is too late.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.