Inheritances: in life or in death? Most parents make a will in favor of their children

In an increasingly modern and individualistic society, with fewer offspring and a longer life expectancy, one thing survives, as if time did not pass.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
28 November 2023 Tuesday 04:02
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Inheritances: in life or in death? Most parents make a will in favor of their children

In an increasingly modern and individualistic society, with fewer offspring and a longer life expectancy, one thing survives, as if time did not pass. They are the rules in the distribution of inheritances, that legacy accumulated with the effort of a lifetime that passes from parents to descendants. An estate that continues to be tested, with an overwhelming majority, in favor of the children, with whom they no longer want to live, but from whom they do ask for company and attention.

The professor at the University of Malaga, Luis Ayuso, has just published the first sociological study, thanks to a Leonardo BBVA Grant, on a topic that is very little talked about in life and a focus of conflicts in death.

It is an unpublished work and comparing it with the past is impossible. This study starts from scratch. There the question is whether it is better to distribute during life or after death, preferences between children or what is expected of the heirs once they receive their lots.

And a first surprising fact. Only 10% of the more than a thousand people surveyed in Spain confess to having had family conflicts due to an inheritance. It doesn't fit. But there is an explanation for this response, which the author of the study admits “squeaks.”

If this work has shown anything “it is that Spanish society continues to be very familiar.” It is not surprising, then, that they refuse to talk about inheritance conflicts to protect the family.

With the answer to this question, something similar happens to the behavior of those people who seek advice, but say they are gathering that information for a friend. If you read the small print of the survey, things fit more when it is found that 33% of those surveyed do confess to knowing about fights between someone close to them because of an inheritance, and 12% assure that examples of these conflicts, "have many".

There are family clashes due to inheritance, and there are many. Sometimes for a priori insignificant issues. Luis Ayuso remembers the case of a neighbor from Blanes, who was at odds with her brothers over her mother's wedding dress. “Keeping that garment was taking home her deceased mother,” she says.

The sentimental issue also has a lot of weight in these conflicts. And to prevent them from emerging before their time, a pact of silence is sealed. The fear of fights during life between siblings explains why 40% of the people consulted in this study (all over 60 years of age) confirm that they have never talked about inheritance with their children or loved ones.

And it is not because they have not made a will, but because of fear that some of the beneficiaries of that inheritance will show anger. “Addressing this issue always involves talking about death and money,” says Ayuso.

The “familialism” that still prevails in Spain and to which the author of this work refers is captured with another piece of information. 88% of people with children consider that their assets should pass to their children. Regardless of what the relationship with them is like.

Now the distribution is more balanced as the figure of the “sole heir” is in decline. The eldest kept the house and the rest of the property. This change in the rules of the game increases, however, the risk of conflicts over inheritances, "since the expectations of what is going to be received are not as clear as decades ago, with the figure of that sole heir," says Luis Ayuso.

Among the people consulted who have not yet turned 70, it is detected, on the other hand, that this immortal will to donate to children should not be confused with the delivery of a blank check.

24% of those surveyed expect compensation for this inheritance, “a percentage that will surely increase in the coming years,” Ayuso predicts. Although there are no previous studies, this work detects that those respondents who are around 60 years old no longer ask to go live with their children (only 9% consider this), but rather make sure that these descendants will visit and take care of them.

"Loneliness is one of the main fears of older people, so the company of these daughters and sons is highly valued and is now taken into account when determining the distribution."

The desire of these people is to be able to end the day at home, with outside help and not go into their children's homes. Another resident of Catalonia told this sociologist in a very graphic way: “I don't want my son to wipe my ass like I did with my father; "I wouldn't wish that on anyone."

Although the majority of those surveyed are in favor of distributing the inheritance after death (increased life expectancy requires retaining maximum resources), the study reveals that part of these legacies are donated during life. More than half of those surveyed reveal that they helped their children when they left home and 37% affirm that they have given them money in the last year.

“The social function that these people over 60 years of age carry out with their families represents the social support of the younger generations, which, if they did not exist, would increase the social inequality gap in Spain. This aid can also be considered as a 'living inheritance' when referring to the transmission of assets from one generation to another," concludes Ayuso.