Is it Wise to Will Money to Children With No Direction?

My parents have set up bequests to each of their grandchildren in their will. Some grandchildren are very responsible and will use the money wisely, but we’re afraid others will just spend it on wasteful things. Is it smart to give money outright like this to young people with no directions?

Let me say that it’s as good to ask questions about how to receive an inheritance responsibly as it is to make a bequest responsibly. It’s too easy to treat a gift simply as a windfall that can be spent however one pleases. But if a gift is to have value and represent well the relationship from which it came, then the use of it has to be measured and considerate.

There’s much about this situation that we don’t know. How large are the bequests? How old are the grandchildren? If the gifts are small, there is less concern than if the amounts are larger. So too if the recipients are older, with more life experience.

Perhaps your parents indicated in their will how they intended the money to be used. Perhaps they had activities or causes which were especially important to them, and that could serve as a guide for using the funds. I know of someone whose love of creation was passed down through the generations, so a bequest from that person was used for travel and to purchase camping equipment.

Or perhaps there were aspects of a grandchild’s life in which the grandparent took particular delight. That would be an exceptional way to honor a grandparent’s generosity. And by all means a portion could be given to a church or to charitable causes with funds from the inheritance. It may be, however, that your parents provided generously for their church and charities in their estate already, and so such gifts are less pressing.

About the Author

Rolf Bouma is interim pastor at Dearborn Christian Fellowship, Dearborn, Mich., and teaches in the University of Michigan’s Program in the Environment in Ann Arbor.

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