Receiving an inheritance can certainly be like winning the lottery. What could be wrong with that?
Callie Rogers, age 16, won $3.1 million in a British lottery. By the age of 22, the unwed mother of two had attempted suicide twice, and spent over $400,000 on cocaine alone (in addition to more conventional luxuries). She was broke, living with Mom, and working three cleaning jobs.
William “Bud” Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania Lottery in 1988. Within five years, his brother had put out a murder-for-hire contract on him. His landlady, who was also his sixth wife, had forced him to give her a third of his winnings. He was convicted for assault for firing a shotgun at a bill collector. By the time he died in 2006, Post had gone from scooping up annual lottery payments of $497,953.47 to scraping by on $450 per month in disability compensation.
Jack Whitaker won the largest Powerball payout in history. In just four years, he blew through $113,386,407.77 (after taxes). He gave away $14 million to his church and other charitable causes, but he went from successful businessman to a sleazy strip club regular. Money’s impact on his loved ones was even more tragic. The apple of his eye — his granddaughter, Brandi — unfortunately spent her new-found wealth on a trip down the fast lane to drug addiction. Brandi ended up dead under circumstances that pointed to murder.
So what will your loved ones do with what you leave behind for them? The above examples are extreme, but they show how a sudden windfall can quickly turn from a blessing into a curse. The lesson applies to all of us. It doesn’t take millions of dollars to ruin a life. Rather than give your loved ones direct access to what you leave behind, you can give them their inheritance in trusts, administered by people or institutions who will provide good judgment and wise guidance. Those trusts can contain provisions to protect your beneficiaries from bad habits, opportunistic friends and family members, and their own lack of wisdom and experience. You can even add a variety of conditions to your gifts. You can condition distributions from trusts upon such things as the beneficiary’s passing a drug test, holding a steady job, or staying out of jail. You can also impose positive conditions, such as directing your trustees to make larger ongoing distributions to beneficiaries who are maintaining a certain grade point average in college or meeting other standards of achievement.
Your legacy deserves to be passed on in a way that will genuinely benefit your loved ones. There’s no harm in being creative about how you achieve your estate planning goals.
Scott Makuakane, Counselor at Law
Focusing exclusively on estate planning and trust law.
Watch Scott’s TV show, Malama Kupuna
Sundays at 8:30 p.m. on KWHE,Oceanic channel 11
O‘ahu: 808-587-8227 | firstname.lastname@example.org