May 1, 2021

When to Give Inheritance Money to Your Kids

Should an inheritance be strictly an inheritance, to be left to children when their parents…

Should an inheritance be strictly an inheritance, to be left to children when their parents die? Or should parents use at least some of that money while they’re still alive to help out their adult children financially? And if parents give while they’re alive, how much should they give and when?

Of course, every family is different—both in terms of what they can afford and what brings them joy. But there are some things every family should consider when deciding how to pass wealth from one generation to the next. The Wall Street Journal invited three financial advisers to discuss those issues: Michael Garry, founder of Yardley Wealth Management in Yardley, Pa.; Jacqueline B. Roessler, certified divorce financial analyst at the Center for Financial Planning in Southfield, Mich.; and Tony Walker, a retirement-planning specialist in Louisville, Ky.

Here are edited excerpts of the discussion.

WSJ: How do you advise clients on the topic of the timing of inheritance?

MR. GARRY: I believe strongly that parents should dole out money while they are alive and not stockpile it any more than they need to for their own financial security. The people who make gifts during their lifetimes are able to help their children, and maybe grandchildren, at the exact time they likely most need the money, and not based on the random date of their death. They also get to see the benefit of the gift to their children and grandchildren. The extent of the gifts depends on how much the parents can afford.