My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a tax partner and the managing partner of Cunningham LLP in Toronto. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not reflect the position of Cunningham LLP. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humor/sarcasm. You've been warned.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Inheriting Money - Are you a Loving Child, a Waiter or a Hoverer

In February 2012, I wrote a blog post titled “Is it Morbid or Realistic to Plan for an Inheritance?”. I knew this was a touchy subject and would elicit various reactions from my readers. In the post, I stated that to “ignore the existence of a significant future inheritance that would impact your personal financial situation may be nonsensical” from a financial and retirement planning perspective.

Whether you believe you should plan for an inheritance or not, is your own personal decision. Today I want to deal with the behaviors and actions of those who stand to inherit money from their parents. Over the last 25 years, I have dealt with the tax, financial and psychological issues surrounding numerous client estates. I have observed the actions of those who will be the recipients of an inheritance and have found their behavior anywhere from fascinating to sickening.

I have found people who will inherit money fall into 4 groups:

1. The Loving Child

2. The Pragmatic Loving Child

3. The Waiters

4. The Hoverers

The Loving Child


For this group, their parents come first and money is secondary. Typically, these children are very close to their parents throughout their life and call and see them on a consistent basis, often weekly, or even daily. They have always helped their parents with their medical needs or in some cases with their financial needs, without giving it a second thought; because, their parents are well, their parents. This group would tell you they would give back any inheritance, if it allowed them another day to be with their parents and would consider it blasphemy to plan for an inheritance.

The Pragmatic Loving Child


This group is a subset of #1. These children love their parents and just want their parents to enjoy their lives, even if it means that they spend the children's inheritance. Children in this group may consider the reality that they will likely receive an inheritance. Even so, they do not want to take it into account in their planning and it is only at the insistence of an accountant or financial planner that they would even consider such.

The Waiters


I am not sure who coined this term, but I have seen it used many times. Waiters are described as children waiting for their parents to die, so that they can benefit from their parents assets. Waiters are considered to have a warped sense of entitlement to their parent’s money. I have observed several waiters over the years, some who went into debt to live a lifestyle based on an assumed inheritance. In my limited sample size, the children have always received their inheritance. However, one day I would love to see the face of a waiter when a lawyer informs them their parent decided to leave everything to charity instead of them.

The Hoverers


Hoverers are an even lower species than the waiters. These children often pay little or no attention to their parents their whole life, but when their parents get sick or older, they start hovering around. Several years ago one of my clients was very sick and was expected to pass away any day. I received a call from one of his children. I assumed the call was going to be the bad news that my client had passed away and the child was going to provide me the details of the funeral. The call was indeed to tell me their parent had passed away, but they were not calling to tell me about the funeral arrangements; their question to me was when they could start accessing their inheritance. I just felt sick to my stomach.

Don’t ask me why I decided to write about this topic. I guess as I have stated many times in my blog, I am just fascinated by how money affects people’s behavior. Thankfully, most people fall into the first two groups. If you are a Waiter or Hoverer, consider taking a good look at yourself in the mirror.

The blogs posted on The Blunt Bean Counter provide information of a general nature. These posts should not be considered specific advice; as each reader's personal financial situation is unique and fact specific. Please contact a professional advisor prior to implementing or acting upon any of the information contained in one of the blogs.

9 comments:

  1. Hi Mark,

    Throughout my extended family, I've mostly seen loving children, but I've also seen a few hoverers. One thing most of them had in common was that they were surprised the inheritance was so small. If you're going to take into account an inheritance in your financial plan, you'd better have a realistic idea of how much money is involved. Guesses based on family gossip don't cut it.

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    1. Hi Michael,

      Glad to hear the Hoverers did not get what they expected, could not be a better result unless they were cut out of the will.

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  2. My parents and their siblings got cut out of the will - they got too old. My grandparents (both in their 90's) decided recently to jump generations to their 13 thirty-something grandkids who have kids of their own (mostly). Dividing it with my cousins will mean none of us are rich, but it's a nice surprise. A certain uncle won't see it that, and I expect to see some claws come out once they both pass away.

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    1. Hey Joel

      Surprises and disappointments; makes the family reunion a fun place :)

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  3. Agatha Christie drew such vivid portraits of Waiters and Hoverers that she must have known a few. It's also led to a maxim I live by: "Never be worth more to someone dead than alive." : )

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    1. Hey Bet:

      Hmm, many guys with large life insurance or estates will have to be careful then. I guess my next blog can be on "Black Widows" who dont wait for their inheritance but kill for it :)

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  4. Or Black Widowers....I know a few rich little old ladies, too. : )

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  5. I think I am more like a Vulture, remembering that old T-Shirt from the seventies "Patience my a**! I'm gonna go KILL something!".

    Actually both sets of parents have been generous with gifts before they pass(ed) away, mostly to the grandkids.

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    1. Hey BCM:

      Although children and grandchildren have no given right to their parents money, for those parents/grandparents that have money, I have suggested such things as taking everyone on a family vacation or partial gifts during their lifetime. If you as a parent know you have more than you will ever need, why not enjoy the benefit of your gift vicariously while alive.

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