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Where Should Mom's Estate Go?



"My mother has very strong feelings about a nonprofit organization with which she’s associated. She‘s planning to leave some of her money to that organization when she dies.

The problem is that Mom isn’t the richest woman, and she has three children who could use that money. 

I don’t mean to sound like a money-grubbing daughter. I think that it’s her money and she has the right to do what she wants with it. But it would be nice if she would leave it to us kids, or at least most of it. Right now I think she wants to give about half of what she has left to this organization.

By the way, Mom is of sound mind. There’s nothing about her behavior that suggests she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Is there a way to reason with her about a larger inheritance?"



Inheritance is always a bit of a touchy situation. You know that there are no laws requiring her to leave anything to heirs. She may give it all to charity if she so chooses. 

The least contentious situation is to leave it all equally to the children. It’s simple and doesn’t usually create conflict. But some people do want to help more than just their direct heirs. They can decide to leave some or all of their assets to charitable organizations. 

I know you realize that the money belongs to her and she will decide what to do with it. Asking your mother to give nothing to charity because you want it all could be off-putting to her. She may feel that you and your siblings are capable of managing your own affairs without her money, or that she has already given her kids all the money she ever will.

My recommendation is to gently collect information about your mother’s wishes, remembering throughout that the money is hers. Encourage your mother to consult her attorney and an estate planner. It is not unusual to leave a small portion of a smaller estate or a large portion of a larger estate to charity. Helping the community at large is important to many, and it sounds like your mother is in that category. 

I would avoid arguing with her about your wants and desires as it could backfire on you. Tread lightly in that regard. 

The best thing you can do as a child is to anticipate no inheritance. Save your money, plan for retirement, and enjoy the inheritance windfall only if it comes. If it does not, you are fine.  

Navigating life as an adult is tough, and planning for financial independence is extremely important for all of us. I wish you success on this journey.


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