Beyond the Grave

Gerald M. Condon and Jeffrey L. Condon. Beyond the Grave: The Right Way and the Wrong Way of Leaving Money to Your Children (and Others). New York, N.Y. HarperBusiness. 2001. 450 pages.

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Passing on money to the next generation is not as straightforward as it might seem. Without the proper protections, money your daughter inherits could end up going to your son-in-law's second wife. Or your son's inheritance could wind up in the pockets of his creditors rather than those of your grandchildren. The need for careful planning is no less great if you have remarried but wish to leave the bulk of your estate to the children of your first marriage.

In this helpful and highly readable book, a father-and-son legal team presents the spectrum of potential family conflicts that can arise surrounding inheritance and carefully lays out the options for resolving them.

Among the important topics discussed are:

  • The pitfalls of leaving children an unequal inheritance
  • Ensuring that an inheritance will not go to in-laws
  • Planning for the succession of the family business
  • Passing on the family home in a way that is fair to all the children
  • Why it's usually better to make all your children your successor trustees
  • Gifting money to grandchildren fairly
  • Providing for a pet after death
  • How taking your name off the title to your child's house could avoid unnecessary taxes

Readers shouldn't come to this book looking for Medicaid planning advice, however. Beyond the Grave is about making sure your wishes for passing on your assets are realized, not about protecting those assets while you are still alive.

Also, the authors have the annoying habit of referring to the estate tax as the "death tax," a disparaging term that has been coined by opponents of the estate tax to push for its permanent repeal. But, to their credit, the Condons do an excellent job of explaining the hidden cost of the estate tax repeal.

The many ways that the best-laid inheritance plans can go awry might surprise you. This book does a great job of presenting the potential pitfalls and suggesting strategies to ensure that an estate will pass to the intended beneficiaries with the minimum of family conflicts.