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Inheritance Etiquette: How to Ask for Inheritance

Learn all about inheritance etiquette in this short guide.

Talking to your parents about your inheritance can seem like an awkward and impossible conversation to have. There is no guidebook for asking family members about your inheritance, and it often seems like a taboo conversation. Many family members may avoid bringing up the topic because of the sad feelings and fear of loss it can trigger. Additionally, people may not want to come off as seeming greedy if they ask about their inheritance prematurely. We sometimes worry that we will seem selfish to those around us and be judged. However, there are many benefits to talking about your inheritance with your parents and family members early on.

It’s important to talk to your parents about their Estate Plan because it can give you an idea of what they want to happen to their assets after their death. By discussing with your parents about their wishes, you can make sure you know where their important documents are located ahead of time and help to guarantee their wishes will be followed after their death. It will be important to know where their Will and their Healthcare Directives are located, in the event that you may need to access them quickly should the need arise. Furthermore, reminding your parents of the importance of Estate Planning by bringing up the subject, sooner rather than later, can give them a needed nudge to begin planning now if they haven't already done so.

With there being many benefits to asking about your inheritance, it is important to discuss how to go about asking in the right way. Trust & Will, a leading online estate planning service, knows how intimidating this can be, which is why we have put together a list of tips that you can use when approaching the topic of your inheritance with your family. The list of tips includes:

Trust & Will goes further into detail of each tip below to ensure that you are fully prepared to talk to your parents about your inheritance with confidence.

Tips for Asking About Your Inheritance

Asking about your inheritance can often feel so daunting that people instead choose to ignore the topic completely. However, by ignoring the topic you may miss out on important information you will need to know about when your parents die. Otherwise, you may be left in the dark.

Make sure everyone involved is present 

When broaching the topic of inheritance with your parents, your first thought may be to have a one-on-one discussion with them for fear of judgement from other family members. While this can have its benefits and you may want to have a follow up one-on-one conversation with your parents, it is equally important to have the discussion with all family members involved present. This will ensure that you do not come off as greedy to other family members, as you are guaranteeing everyone has equal say in the discussion. By allowing everyone to address their own concerns, you are establishing an equal playing field. Having your family members present can also help alleviate any awkwardness you may be feeling because you will not be the only one asking questions about your parents’ Estate Plan.

Ask what their plans are and what you need to know

As you start the conversation about your inheritance, it can be beneficial to first address the topic of what plans your parents have already established and if there is anything they want you to be responsible for when they die, such as locating documents. By framing the questions in this light, you are reducing the chances of coming off as inconsiderate and instead giving your parents the opportunity to talk about what they want for their Estate Planning and not what you want. This will make your parents feel more comfortable with the topic and give them the chance to discuss more difficult topics such as what they want you to do with their body and what they want for their healthcare in the event that they cannot decide for themselves.

Avoid specific numbers for money

One topic you may want to avoid when asking about your inheritance is specific numbers when it comes to money. This is because it can be extremely off-putting to your parents to have this question asked outright. By talking about specific amounts, you are asking them to reveal how much money they have saved, and they may not feel comfortable revealing this information to you. On top of this, the exact amount of money you will receive may change over the years as your parents’ circumstances change. Your parents may eventually decide they want to share specific numbers with you, but that is their decision, and you should not force them to divulge numbers unless they want to.

Keep in mind, it will be important to go over tax laws that you may face when you receive your inheritance. Inheritance is often not taxable on the federal level, but any interest earned from your inheritance is. However, there can be inheritance taxes on the state level, and it will be important to review your state regulations because they can vary from state to state, and the state requirements may change over time.

Be compassionate

No matter what questions or concerns you may have about your inheritance, the most important thing you can do during the conversation is to be compassionate. This may be a sensitive topic for your parents, and it may be hard for them to talk about their eventual demise and the fact that they are aging. Make sure to gauge your parents’ emotions during the discussion and know when to take a step back in the discussion. By focusing on being compassionate, you will also reduce the chance of you coming off as inconsiderate when asking about your inheritance. 

Discussing your Estate Plans and planning what inheritance to give to your family members can seem like a heavy topic. However, by planning now, you can ensure your assets are taken care of and will end up where you want them. Trust & Will wants to help make this process easier with our customized online Estate Planning services. With Trust & Will, you can create a Trust-Based Estate Plan, including creating an online Will, that is right for you, and at an affordable price. Visit our Estate Planning website today to learn more!