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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

When it comes to Idaho estate planning we all tend to get into that Norman Rockwell state of mind from time to time, where everything is perfect and we are able to leave a sizeable inheritance to our children. But then reality kicks in and we can see that this may not actually be the case for us after all. This could be based on a number of factors, such as not having saved much money for retirement in our later years. Or perhaps we were dealt an unlucky hand and had sizable medical bills or other financial problems that plagued us during our lives. Regardless of the reason not everybody is in a position to leave an inheritance for their children.

If you are considering leaving an inheritance for your children here are a few things that you should keep in mind.

Looking at the Numbers – The “Average” Inheritance

According to a survey that was done in 2015 many American retirees expected that they would leave an average inheritance of about $177,000 to their children. When the actual numbers came in, however, the numbers were a little different.

According to a Survey of Consumer Finances an actual median inheritance left by parents to their children was about $69,000 total with the average being $707,000. Obviously, a few wealthy people can skew the average so the median number is probably the most accurate representation of the “average” inheritance that children received from their parents during this time period.

Should You Feel Bad if You Leave Less than the “Average”

Many times my estate planning clients feel bad if they can see that they will not leave a sizeable inheritance for their children. I often tell my clients that they shouldn’t feel bad at all if they leave a less than average inheritance to their children. The reason for this could easily be that due to advances in modern health they may live longer than any generation before them. Obviously the longer they live, the more money it will take to support them during their lifetime. A person should never feel bad if they use the money they have saved to pay for their own expenses rather than leaving a sizeable inheritance for their children.

Additionally, as was set forth above, there are a few very wealthy individuals who can skew the averages listed above. If the wealthiest 1% of all families were removed from the calculation, the numbers would more than likely be much more realistic. Furthermore, I often encourage my clients to stop thinking about leaving an inheritance for their children, and start thinking about enjoying their lives and having experiences that they may never have been able to enjoy before. In my opinion, it would be far better for an individual to take a destination cruise and have experiences they can enjoy than to leave a sizeable inheritance to their children.

Should You Forget About Leaving an Inheritance and Share While You are Alive

The final thing that people should understand is that in my opinion it would be far better for them to share experiences with their family while they are alive than leaving a large inheritance to them after they die. Many times parents and grandparents are helping their children and grandchildren gain an education, or maybe helping them get into their first house or car. Sharing your money in this way is far more beneficial to your family while you are alive than it would be for you to leave the money to them after you die.

Additionally, many families enjoy taking vacations together, or having other experiences together that help them bond and become closer. In my opinion the very best thing that parents and grandparents can leave to their family are memories of the experiences that they have had together. Unlike money, you cannot bankrupt memories or spend them in unwise ways.

So don’t worry about either the size of or whether you can leave an inheritance for your children. Rather, spend your time and your money with your children while you are alive. You will find much greater happiness for yourself and you will leave lasting memories with your family after you are gone.


When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or 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.


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