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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an estate planning attorney in Idaho one of the things I like to do is talk with parents about ways they can use their estate planning to provide an incentive to their children to be productive and to contribute to society. In other words, I think it is unwise for a parent to leave a large inheritance of money, property, or other assets to a young child or even a young adult. The reason for this is because it usually steals away from that individual the drive and desire for them to be successful on their own.

To be sure, it’s possible that you could have an unusual child. They may receive millions of dollars from you and it wouldn’t affect their desire to be successful on their own. However, this is a rare case. In fact, it’s so rare that it almost never happens. This brings us to the focus of this particular blog which has to do with Gloria Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt recently passed away at the age of 95. She is the mother of Anderson Cooper, the well-known journalist and reporter. Apparently, while alive, Vanderbilt made it clear to her son that she would not be leaving him any sort of trust or inheritance. This is fascinating because Vanderbilt herself was the recipient of a substantial inheritance and trust fund from her own father. In fact, it’s reported that in 1925 she inherited a trust fund worth $5 million from her father. This would be worth roughly $70 million today.

The good and rare news is that Vanderbilt, did not rely solely on this inheritance that she received. Rather, she used her own ambition and drive and went on to become a successful artist, business owner, fashion designer, and so forth. In fact, it’s estimated that her net worth exceeded $200 million at the time of her death.

The other good news is that Anderson Cooper has no hard feelings towards his mother. In fact, he stated specifically that he didn’t believe in inheriting money because he thought it would be an initiative sucker or a curse to whoever received it. He said because of what his mother told him he believed in working hard for himself and in building his own future.

A good lesson can be learned from both Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper. I often tell my clients that I wish I had a crystal ball which would allow me to know when each person was going to die. Then I could create the perfect estate plan for them that would allow them to spend all of their money, property, and assets on themselves and have it all used up just before they die. Alternatively, I would help these clients make gifts to charities and other institutions that could really benefit from them. I also tell my clients that they have absolutely no obligation to leave any inheritance to any of their children.

When a parent decides they do want to leave an inheritance to a child, I often work with them to come up with ways that will make the inheritance beneficial rather than being the “initiative sucker” referred to by Anderson Cooper.


If you have any questions about your estate or how to simplify your plans for your family and loved ones, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems. I have helped numerous clients create their own customized estate plans and I’m confident that I can help you too.

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