For hundreds of years, Americans have held dear to their ability to pass on accumulated property and wealth to the next generation. The notion has been one element of the American Dream since our country's founding.

In a new nation that was building its capacity, passing on the family farm, the family business, the family home or other personal property and savings served to ensure the next generation's success.

Still today, we have that deep-seated belief that we should accumulate wealth for our children. When planning an inheritance, many people still automatically plan to leave everything to their family members. Since family is the central and most important part of our lives, this idea seems natural and justified. After all, won't we be happiest if we know that we are leaving our families with enough money to live comfortably after we are gone? Yet, beyond the fact that Americans have accumulated more wealth with each generation, an important change has taken place in

the last several decades: modern medicine. We are living much longer.

The reality is that parents now witness their children becoming successful adults – without inheritances.

In fact, an inheritance can often be more of a burden on the next generation than a blessing. Think of the farmer's children, now grown:; the son who went off to Cincinnati to be a banker and the daughter who

went to law school and is now a successful partner in a Chicago law firm. Neither has any need or interest to ever return to the family farm to live, nor do they want to deal with the headache of managing a farm from afar. Yet, each feels an obligation to keep the farm in the family despite the burden it has brought on their own families.

We all know a story where family members no longer talk to one another after fighting over a family inheritance. Some may even know of that youngster who expects to inherit just enough to do nothing with the rest of his life. And think of the 70-year-old woman whose 90-year-old mother passed and left the family home to her daughter who could neither live in it nor pay to have the necessary clean up and repairs done to the home to sell it.

Turning the tables on tradition, this daughter said, "I'd rather see Mom leave whatever she wants to Rush County where we grew up. We don't need it. The community has been like family to her too. We've talked about the sentimental things and photos we want to have. We know Mom loves us, but she had other interests too. She's very happy to know that we're OK and she can do whatever she wants for her church and her community."

It is essential to determine how much is enough – enough for ourselves and for our children. What is most important? If this line between "enough" and "too much" could be found, it would not only prove to be beneficial for our families, but also for our community, another important aspect of our lives. No longer should we simply follow the mantra that everything should go to the kids. Today, more than ever, we need to be more thoughtful in our inheritance planning.

Rush County Community Foundation, the foundation of Rush County's future, is a nonprofit public charity established in 1991 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Rush County forever. To obtain information regarding how much is enough, contact the Rush County Community Foundation by calling Garry Cooley or Terry VanNatta at 765-938-1177 or e-mailing You may also call the community foundation now to receive a free copy of Trusts in Financial and Gift Planning.

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