Depending on your family’s lifestyle, your teenage children may already have an idea of what would happen if you and your spouse were to pass away. They may not know the exact dollar amount of the money that they would inherit, but they probably have an idea of who they would live with and that they would receive most of your assets if something happened.
As a Cary estates lawyer, I know that many parents feel this information is sufficient enough for their minor children. But having an open discussion with your teen can prevent them from being angry or confused if you have decided that he or she will not have access to their inheritance until they are a few years past the age of majority, such as 21 or 25 years old.
It is common knowledge that inheritances are distributed at the age of 18, unless the parents have set up a trust that makes the teen wait. If a teen anticipates these funds at 18, but discovers that you have made them wait until 25, they might get the wrong idea and feel that you made the decision because you did not trust him or her. And with you not there to defend your decision, the teen could be upset and confused.
One way to potentially avoid this anger or confusion is to sit down and have a frank discussion with your teen.
Talk to them about the following issues:
- The amount of money that he or she is to inherit (you may also ballpark this figure)
- The age you feel is appropriate for the inheritance (i.e., 21 or 25 years old, etc.)
- The age that the teen feels is appropriate
- How you want the money to be spent, for example on college or the down payment on a house
- Whether there are other stipulations besides age for receiving the money. For example, you can set it up so that the teen can receive the money at any age, as long as he or she has graduated from college.
Doing what you can to eliminate secrets or surprises from your estate plan can not only bring your family together while you are still living, but it can make the grieving process easier for your kids after you are gone.