Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Who Will Inherit From You? May 27, 2011

Have you thought about your plans for after you’re gone? Do you know who will inherit what from you? If you don’t have children who will automatically inherit, have you given consideration to where you’ll pass along your worldly goods?

I’ll admit that I don’t have a plan in place, mainly because a) I don’t have much to leave anyone, and b) I’m not planning on checking out anytime soon, but the thought does pop into my mind once in a while, and at some point, I’ll want to get something down on paper. My main concern is that my family possessions – photos, keepsakes, and a couple of bits of jewelry – stay in my family, which most likely means leaving them to my nieces and nephews.

I came across this article this week, about a Pasadena couple who left $8 million to their alma maters. The couple had no children and quietly amassed their fortune and lived very unassuming lives. Their neighbors spoke fondly of a kind and quiet couple who were an integral part of the community, but never showy. I read this article and thought, “that’s how I’d want to be.”

Contrast that with these two articles, the first about Elizabeth Taylor’s children allegedly at war over her $600 million estate, and the other about three brothers in South Africa battling over the fortune they will (or will not) inherit from their wealthy childless aunt.

I don’t expect to have millions for my relatives to battle over when I’m gone, but I would like to make sure that the people I care about have something to remember me by. I’d hate to think of my most treasured (if not monetarily valuable) possessions ending up on the shelves of Goodwill.


11 Responses to “Who Will Inherit From You?”

  1. Sonja Lewis Says:

    Thanks for this post Lisa. This issue of inheritance is a big deal, which is why it plays such a important part in my novel, The Barrenness. None of us like to think about dying, but at some point, we really ought to get our house in order whether we have riches or not. Trash (trinkets, etc…) can be treasures to some. Furthermore, legacies can be methaphorical too,as in memories that others have of us.

    Not a bad idea to think about what sort of impressions we’ll leave behind, which is why I think it is important to try to find happiness in one’s own space.

  2. Jane G Says:

    We will most likely leave our house and whatever money left (very little I would imagine) between our three godchildren. I would also want to leave my jewellry to my two god-daughters. I have a few nice limited edition prints which I would also like to include in my will, but I’m not sure who would want them. Together they are probably worth a few quid, so as you say, I wouldn’t like to see them end up in a junk shop.

    It’s a morbid thought, but one that does cross my mind every so often.

  3. Jen Says:

    A close friend of ours passed away suddenly last year. She was 31 years old and left behind her husband and 4 kids. Such a sad and long story but it made my husband and I really think about what we would do if either one of us (or both of us) died. We have yet to make any plans but it has really made us consider what we would do. It is something everyone should think of, no matter what your situation.

  4. Kelly Says:

    When we got engaged, our gift registry focused on things like fine china and crystal. My grandparents didn’t have much to leave us when they passed on, and I wanted to make sure that my children and grandchildren would have lovely things to inherit. Twelve plain silver-edged formal Wedgwood settings that would remain classics throughout the ages. A bedroom set that is just gorgeous and quality-built.
    With no children and soon-to-be separated from my husband, I wonder what I would have asked for if I had known it was just going to be for me.

  5. Amy Says:

    My husband passed away suddenly last year at the age of 32. He left behind a heart-broken wife and no children. We were just about to start our 3rd IVF.
    I know I’ll never marry again. It really got me thinking though. We had never even thought about death before that. We were too young, surely? What to do with our material possessions. I have quite a few siblings, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
    What I’m REALLY worried about though is my ’emotional’ last will and testament. Who will lovingly REMEMBER me? Keep me in their hearts (for at least 2 generations)?
    Who, apart from me, will fondly remember my husband’s smile and big heart? A heart which killed him too soon?


    • lmanterfield Says:

      Amy, I am so sorry for your loss. Your story has made me really think about my own legacy, not just financial, but as you say, emotional. I’m sending good wishes your way.

  6. stacey Says:

    I recently read a few books by will lawyers (stories, not technical how-tos) and it’s fascinating how people act with their “stuff” in death as well as in life, and how much people hold their “stuff” over their loved one’s heads. Amazing stuff, really.

    One story focused on a mother’s huge yet loved by her dining room hutch, cabinet, table and chairs set that neither of her 3 kids secretly liked and had long grown tried of looking at. She was heartbroken to discover, when asking which of her kids wanted it in her will. Neither of them expressed anything but shock and slight horror. Her first clue should have been that she had to hire men to take her dining room window out so the whole set could be moved into the house! 🙂 Anyway…

    I often think of stuff like this, and since we don’t have kids but have 13 nieces and nephews between us, I have made my husband monetary and house beneficiary and I have a small list of stuff I think others would want based on their interests (mostly hobby crafts, etc). I don’t buy expensive stuff, and I’m not a collector. There are so few things of actual value in our house that I’m forced to make memories with people instead. I figure they can always laugh recalling something I’ve said or done in their presence now later on.

    To be honest, I’m not materialistic, and I don’t care what happens to my “stuff” in the end, and no one should ever expect anything or even to be included in a will. It’s an honour just be included, IMO. However, you should always have a will – even if you’re leaving everything to charity. The second you have dependents or assets – or both – you NEED a will.

    There are more heartbreaking stories about how surviors deal with the contents of a will than how they deal with the death of their loved ones. The fact is, there are FAR too many entitled people walking this planet, and most of them will show their true colours at your will reading or afterwards in court as they contest provisions.

    Also, be very clear with your divisions. Don’t state you trust Johnny and Jane to be civilised enough to split your jewellery. They won’t. One will always be greedier than the other, and that will cause a rift that can last their life time. That’s the saddest scenario of all, and all because you want to be fair to everyone, and not be clear enough with your wishes.

    So… yeah, I’ve thought about this subject a bit. 🙂

  7. Mali Says:

    I’ve thought about this – a lot – and blogged about it a few months ago here (

    Like you I want the people I care about to have something to remember me by. But I don’t mind if my most beloved possessions end up for sale. OK, maybe I mind, because they have special meaning to us, but I accept that others don’t share those meanings and emotions, even if we did have children (as Stacey said). My husband once pointed out to his mother that her little treasures didn’t mean anything to him or his brothers, because they didn’t share the same memories. She was most put out! But he was honest,and it helps me not to worry.

  8. DAK Says:

    One if the easiest questions to answer as far as far as an infertile person: My guess is whatever IS left will go to my nieces and nephews and there are so many of them, it will be a mere piddance! lol

  9. Kathleen Says:

    My husband I are not able to have children. We have made decision about who will get what (nieces, nephews, sisters, friends) The most important thing we did was put everything in writing with a Will and a Revocable Living Trust. The other item that should address is financial power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney & conservator documents. Usually if something happens they look to the spouse for guidance. If that person is not available they look to adult children, etc. What happens if you have no children or family nearby or are unmarried. I know that I would not want the State of NC to make decisions for me. We so many people in our estate planning practice who call when it’s too late to make these decisions. It’s tough to tell them that it’s now up to the court system. Please take the time to put your wishes in writing.

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