I Received an Inheritance. Now What?


Most people dream of winning the lottery, suddenly amassing a huge sum of money. Lottery winners are rare, but what’s more common is inheriting your money.

Most people inherit their fortune after the death of a family member and are suddenly faced with the decision of what to do with the money in the midst of their grief. Unfortunately, a Danish survey showed that most inheritances are gone within five years due to poor decision-making.

So what should you do if you receive an amount that could be life-changing? Read below to see what you steps to take if you receive an inheritance.

Make a List of Your Financial Priorities

It’s easy to get overwhelmed once you receive a large sum of money. Most people never receive any windfall larger than a few thousand dollars at a time, and getting hundreds of thousands of dollars or more can be difficult to manage.

To wrap your head around the possibilities, make a list of what your financial problems are. Here are some items to include:

  • High-interest debt i.e. credit cards
  • Medium-interest debt i.e. auto or student loans
  • Low-interest debt i.e. a mortgage
  • Emergency fund
  • Retirement savings

Your own list might include setting up a larger emergency fund, paying off your car loan and increasing your retirement contributions. Depending on the amount you inherited and your list, you might not be able to take care of everything you want. It’s almost always best to pay off any high-interest debt and create an emergency fund of at least three month’s worth of expenses.

Avoid Get Rich Quick Schemes

Some people see an inheritance as their chance to buy a franchise restaurant, a luxury car or a new house. Friends and loved ones will offer advice on what to do with their new funds, like buy a life insurance policy or invest in their rental property.

It can be tempting to make the most of your inheritance, but it’s also easy to squander. Invest carefully and avoid anyone who promises to double or triple your money with little effort.

Talk to a Financial Planner

If you still feel confused about your best options or want to ensure your new money works for you, a financial advisor can be the best option. You can find a fee-only planner through the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. If you want to invest the money for retirement, you can ask the advisor for the best investment vehicles.

A financial advisor can also show you if there are any tax implications of your inheritance. For example, if you received a piece of property as part of the inheritance, you’ll have to pay any property taxes and insurance even if there’s not a mortgage.

Some states also require that beneficiaries pay an inheritance tax on the amount they receive. Before you hit the malls, talk to a tax specialist who can let you know what to expect. You don’t want to blow all the money before you’ve paid any necessary taxes.

Take It Slow

If you’ve received a huge sum, it might be tempting to make a lot of new changes quickly. Instead of racing to pay off your mortgage or buy a new car, take some time to think about your decision. Talk to some professionals, figure out what you want out of life and make decisions slowly.

If you’re also dealing with grief, then it can be even more vital to take it slow. Use the money as a reason to change your life for the better.

Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP® is an author, speaker, and financial coach who takes a fun, no-nonsense approach in working with individuals and couples across the country, helping them make smart choices with their money.

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