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5 Inheritance Mistakes to Avoid

An inheritance can be a wonderful and lasting legacy, but it can also be a thorny nightmare. Any time you mix emotions and money, there are bound to be issues that arise. If you avoid these five critical mistakes, the process of inheritance will go more smoothly.

Mistake #1: Spending mindlessly. It can be tempting to go out and buy, but until you have developed a long-term game plan, slow down and try to avoid mindless spending on what you tell yourself is “just a small indulgence.” A series of those kinds of purchases can morph into a spending splurge that might rob you of your ability to reach your overall goals for the inheritance.

Mistake #2: Going it alone. Maybe you manage your 401(k) plan or even breeze through your tax preparation, but a windfall, whether it’s an inheritance or even lottery proceeds, is different. It can be helpful to assemble a team, including an estate attorney, an accountant and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. The team will help guide you through the process and as important, create a long-term plan for how the inheritance can be used to achieve your financial goals.

Mistake #3: Making decisions too quickly. It took someone a lifetime to accumulate an estate. You can go slowly, too. Be careful not to make any big life decisions, like selling a house or quitting a job, too early in the process. Use your team to help create a timeline of goals and remember that an inheritance often coincides with loss, so give yourself enough space to grieve.

Mistake #4: Becoming paralyzed in the investment process. Sometimes people who receive a lump sum become so worried about “investing at the top”, that they become immobilized and do nothing. One way to conquer this fear is to consider dollar cost averaging (DCA), the investment strategy that divides the available money into equal parts and then periodically puts the money to work in a diversified portfolio over time.

Mistake #5: Providing for everyone except you. You love your kids. You love your friends. You love your charitable organizations. That said, until you have thought through your plan and whether you will include personal or official charity in it, push the pause button. There will be plenty of time to provide generous support, without putting your own financial security at risk.

An inheritance can trigger a complex process of grieving and planning. The legacy you’ve received may call for a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional with the expertise to guide you through.

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