Gifts to Grandchildren

I have had the opportunity over the last few decades to write and review many estate plans.   In the vast majority of the plans that I have seen the typical estate plan for a married couple is to leave everything to the spouse and then upon the spouse's death the remainder is to be divided between the children.   That is a good basic plan.   In the eventual course of life those children will likewise die and leave their property to their children.   Included in that property will likely be some of the wealth that was passed down by the grandparents.  Unfortunately, the grandchildren will most likely never realize that they inherited anything from their grandparents.  They will just assume that it all came from their parents.

Most grandparents have a very pleasant relationship with their grandchildren.  Grandparents are usually not required to raise their grandchildren, so they are not involved in discipline and the other hard decisions of raising children.  Therefore grandparents can focus on the pleasant aspects of loving and encouraging their grandchildren.   It seems natural that upon the passing of the grandparents they may want to do something in the disposition of their property to cause them to be remembered by their grandchildren.   Ironically most grandparents do nothing with their estate that would cause them to be remembered by their grandchildren.

I am now reviewing a trust agreement where the grandparents are using a trust to provide annual gifts to their grandchildren for five consecutive years after the death of both grandparents.  This is probably the most unusual and most effective gift strategy that I have seen to demonstrate a grandparent's concern and affection for grandchildren.   I believe that it is particularly effective because it spreads the gifts out over five years.  Those grandchildren will receive a very clear message that grandmother and grandfather were thinking of them.

I do not think that large gifts of the majority of the estate are in order for the grandchildren.  But often at the time of the grandparents' death, grandchildren are in college, graduate school,  trying to buy a home or otherwise trying to get their start in life.   This is a time in life when a gift of a few thousand dollars may be especially needed and appreciated.  Even if grandchildren are younger,  some assets could be held in trust until the grandchildren became young adults before the gifts from the grandparents are distributed to the grandchildren.   This is something that I want to better address in my own estate plan and suggest that it might be a wonderful thing for others to also consider.

Posted on October 5, 2014 .