Spoiled kid Spaulding in the movie Caddyshack comes off the golf course whining…. “I want a cheeseburger. I want a hot dog. I want a milkshake”…. Judge Smails interrupts “YOU”LL GET NOTHING AND LIKE IT!” So many people, more so now than ever, live with an enormous sense of entitlement, lack of work ethic and poor character. Many of my clients are their parents who have grave concerns about the next generation and their lifestyle.
When drafting a trust for a beneficiary who has bad spending and work habits, the Trustee is often directed to consider all factors in determining how much money to distribute to them, including the character, habits and personal lifestyle of the beneficiary, the diligence, progress, and aptitude of the beneficiary in acquiring an education and gainful employment, and the ability of the beneficiary to handle money usefully and prudently and to assume the responsibilities of adult life and self-support.
Character is the mental and moral qualities of a person. Lifestyle is a free personal choice but enabling reckless, irresponsible spending and work behavior with an excessive inheritance is ill advised. Those with wealth have a responsibility to see to its prudent disposition. Remember, there is a Goldilocks “just right” inheritance for children – enough that they can do anything but not so much that they can do nothing, as Warren Buffet admonished.
Parents leave their children with an inheritance of not only money but much more importantly a legacy of values, education and strength of character. It is enormously difficult to reach a stable place in the economy without help. The economic landscape changed radically after the Great Recession. It’s pretty much impossible to enter the comfortable Mass Affluent Nobility without family assistance and support. Parents and grandparents need to help their children to ensure economic security… but not too much.
It’s not just economic stratification that’s occurring in America. There has been a decline in morality, work-ethic, self-reliance and character among our fellow countrymen. Acquiring an education, marketable skills and gainful employment is not easy. Perhaps as a consequence, many simply give up and sink into dependency, enabled by government hand-outs, improvident parents or outright deceit (feigning disability, welfare fraud, etc.).
It’s a value judgment to insist that someone handle money usefully (practically, for good purposes and not wastefully) and prudently (with care and foresight). Eventually, you will not be in this world. Will your Estate Planning War Chest be pillaged after your death, or, will it arm the next generation with the financial and moral weapons needed to defend against the plundering, morally decaying forces of our indolent enemies on the wealth wars battlefield?