This is the story of a Federal retiree who also served in the military and had a pretty lucky hand at playing the stock market. In other words, he has amassed a fairly sizable fortune. He has one surviving heir, his son. Lately he has begun to worry about what to do with his wealth since he is approaching 90. He is in good health and I don’t think he will be making that final journey anytime soon. He comes from a family of very long livers – 100 plus.
I listen to him more than I shell out advice. I really believe that it is nonsense to wait until death to share your resources with the people you intend to have it. Chances are many of the people could use a hand-up right now to make life a little easier. He is smart enough to make certain he has enough to see him through. After all, this is a gentleman who came of age during the Depression and some of the most cruel conditions surviving both in the military and the federal service. Yet, he became a very wealthy man and from what it seems he will never have to worry about his financial well-being.
He has been gathering the names of all of his surviving nieces and nephews around the country so that he can name them in his will and not have to leave everything to his son; particularly, since they don’t communicate that much. I believe all-in-all that the son is a fairly decent human being. The only thing I know that the son has done is not visiting his father enough. That might be because he and the father don’t see eye to eye on a number of political and social issues. Well that might be true for the lot of us.
If I felt so compelled to advise him this is what I would say. Sit down with your attorney and your financial advisor and propose drawing up a document to give your only child – your son what you intend for him to have now. Discuss all of the tax consequences and all the other nuances – and give him the second gift of a lifestyle. His first gift was truly his parents – he had great parents and has a great father. His mother passed on some years ago and she knew her son would be just fine. In other words, the son received the kind of love growing up that will always sustain him even if he does not see eye-to-eye with his father on some things. I would also give the nieces and nephews what I intended for them to have. They have families and children in college or headed off to college. A few dead presidents here and there could lighten the load.
If he intends to give some to charities, then he can hold off on that. Instead of worrying about what to do with the accumulated wealth into old age, take care of that now so that you can see your loved ones enjoying the fruits of your labor. I would get such enjoyment out of watching the smiles and the surprises on faces when they learned they could pay off a student loan debt, cover a grandchild’s tuition, help to pay down a mortgage and just a host of other things that can be a heavy burden on families.
We do things the way we have gotten used to doing them. Nobody said we couldn’t do some things differently. They might make more sense and they might help a lot more people sooner.
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