Monthly Archives: March 2012

Children and Grandchildren Not Entitled to Inheritance

In her will, Leona Helmsley, NY hotel magnate, left $12 million dollars for the care of her dog. She left nothing to two of her four grandchildren, saying ‘the reasons are known to them’.

Even though Helmsley was a philanthropist, bequeathing millions of dollars to charitable organizations, she took a stand when it came to rewarding behavior she didn’t like. Her thinking may have been simple:  “My dog loves me, is good to me, I feel appreciated and loved. Two of my grandchildren treat me badly. They don’t deserve anything. I’ll leave money for the other two.”

There is no law requiring parents to leave their children or grandchildren an inheritance. Blood lines don’t apply in the U.S. or England, the only two countries that practice the legal concept of  ‘testamentary freedom’  – the right to designate who will inherit their estate.

That means children and grandchildren are not automatically entitled to any portion of their parents’ or grandparents’ estate. They receive an inheritance because parents choose to leave it to them. Inheritance lies not in the genes, but in the heart. It’s all about the quality of relationship, not family ties.