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Should You Leave Your Wealth To Your Kids

Jun 24, 2008
Far be it from me to be the bearer of bad news but you are going to die. This is not some idle threat or some premonition of impending doom, just a basic fact of life in that yes, it does end.

What we do between now and then is what counts. What we chose to do with our assets once we're gone is going to be the final thing we have a say over so say it well. Making a will is an essential part of life. It determines what happens to the things we own in life, it helps show people just what we thought of them when we were alive (good or bad) and it means that in some small way our memory can live on in others, maybe even helping them along the way.

Making a will is a very emotional thing for a lot of people but you should try and look at it with a practical head. If you want to leave it to your family and friends, then you need to decide who gets what, who gets how much, who's going to make sure your wishes are executed etc. Sometimes, people prefer to be left things of sentimental value and, let's face it, for the majority of us, this is all there is anyway. For those with more wealth, they may choose to leave savings, bonds and profit from the sale of an estate to their children.

This doesn't apply to everybody. Body shop founder Anita Roddick shocked the financial world when she chose to leave her wealth to charity as opposed to her family. Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson has done the same and even Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft is making a will that leaves his mere $58 billion to charity as opposed to his children.

Some think this is a strange choice to make. Surely everyone wants to help out their children in a difficult world. However, some people place much more value in the things you teach your children rather than what you hand to them on a plate. Teaching the value of money is a difficult thing when you rear your children in an atmosphere where money is no object. They will have no understanding of how the average person finds it difficult to raise enough cash to pay the gas bill or what it's like to have to save for a holiday instead of just booking one when they feel like it.

Ensuring your children are poor while you are alive is pointless. However, they do need to be shown what is important in life and many celebrities do this by showing their children how the other half live. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have been criticised for dragging their children around third world countries but at least they will know how lucky they are to have the things they have.

I'm not suggesting that every wealthy person in the country starts hauling their kids to remote, poverty stricken areas but it would certainly not pay to hand out everything as and when it was called for. Learning how to handle money and how to save is a good thing but the best thing to show your kids is the importance of compassion for others and the rewards that come from hard work. If they realise the satisfaction of holding cash in your hand that you know you have done a good job for and received as a reward, everything else is so much more worthwhile.

At the end of the day, it makes a difference on how well you raise your children. Teaching them morals and decency will determine how well they do in life whether or not you choose to leave your fortune to them or whether all you have is the clothes you stand in for them to remember you by.
About the Author
Financial expert Catherine Harvey looks at some of the decisions faced by those making a will and the way they do not have to do what is expected of them.
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