Inheriting Values

Introductory Note

Over the years, many of our clients have asked us our views on how wealth affects children and family values. The topic comes up in different ways, but most often in connection with the use of trusts or in considering charitable giving.

The topic actually includes a mosaic of questions and concerns that go beyond the “legal” issues and deal with the human factors in the management of wealth across generations. For this reason, we will address the general subject here by doing something a little different than on the rest of our website.

The style and structure is more informal, less “legal.” And since the topics go well beyond matters of law, less time will be spent huffing and puffing about our own views and more in sharing the views of others.

Our views on these kinds of questions have some authenticity. We have experienced first hand how wealth affects people on many occasions, admittedly as an observer, but from a close vantage point. Yet we are lawyers, not professionals trained in psychology, sociology, or any field that purports to systematically study and affect human development or family relationships.

So we do not offer our precepts or recommendations. We instead collect and offer the insights and advice of others. We may include a few suggestions of our own, but these for the most part will be concerned with defining the questions and describing their context. We may also illustrate how the advice of others on these kinds of questions can affect decisions on legal questions.

The format of this space is intended to be organic, something like a garden of ideas. We will exercise the gardener’s prerogative as to what thoughts and sources to include, how to arrange them and how to cultivate them. The display may grow into an English garden framed with boxwoods . . . or a meadow of wildflowers . . . with a few aberrant choices that look like weeds to some eyes.

As with most gardens, this one will take shape over time and may never stop changing. Over the course of this effort, we expect to “see a lot by observing,” as Yogi Berra seems to have said, and we hope that you will too.

What are the questions

In various ways, our clients have posed the following questions:

  • How much money is enough for my kids? The question most often asked.
  • Will too much money spoil my kids? Same question...different perspective.
  • Are they better off without it? But then where does the money go?

These are persistent issues in wealth management. Let's examine here what these issues mean and what the answers might be.

Closing Note

Some of the writings that bear on parenting and wealth issues are included in our reading list, which also includes writings on related topics dealing with business and social values in America.  Reading List

We will return to the topic of the affect of wealth on parenting and family relationships at some point in the future on this site. In the meantime we would make the general comment that almost all of the advice given on parenting in wealthy families would also apply to parents who are "super-achievers" or "famous" but not wealthy.   Thus, the writings on this topic may be interesting to a broader group than first appears.