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Tell Me About It: How best to help adult kids when gifting an inheritance

Q: We will soon inherit some money and want to help our adult children. We want them to use the money toward newer cars (or paying down student debt). We can't give enough to buy a new car, but hope to give between $10,000 and $15,000. We are afraid one of them might use the money for something we consider an unnecessary (and dangerous) luxury. Yet we feel she will be insulted if we give conditionally.

What do you suggest we do? Give it and say we hope she will use it for a car or loans? (She is married. They are smart young adults, but I think sometimes they spend more than they should on vacations and extras.) Or should we hold it back and say, "When you are ready to buy a car, we want to help with this much money?" I'm leaning toward Option 1 but am not sure.

Mom and Dad

A: Option 1 actually rubs me the wrong way. Plus, it's the least pragmatic: all the nuisance of trying to control someone without any actual control. So I suggest you go all in or all out. Either give them the money with no strings, or keep it and say, "When you're ready to buy a car, let us know and we'll kick in X dollars toward it."

You parenthetically refer to Option 3, making a big payment on their education debt — which sounds pretty good, too.

Option 4, which might ultimately be the most helpful to a free-spending child, is not to give the money at all, but instead set it aside for emergencies. Wouldn't it be something if you had thousands parked and ready to go? You can also give one portion freely and set another aside.

Tell Me About It: How best to help adult kids when gifting an inheritance 02/17/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 10, 2014 6:00pm]

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