MINDENMINES, Mo. — Wealth managers, trust officers, and estate attorneys are observing the greatest transfer of wealth between generations in the history of this country. As members of the “Greatest Generation” pass away, and their children, the so-called “Baby Boomers” approach retirement, younger generations are inheriting the possessions and investments of their elders. By some estimates, this transfer of assets may approach $68 trillion (CNBC report in December 2022).
Many coin collections, accumulations, and hoards of silver and gold are suddenly inherited by children and grandchildren who often lack the knowledge and skills to manage their new-found holdings.
“I frequently receive inquiries from estate heirs with questions about ‘grandpa’s coin collection’ or ‘daddy’s gold and silver’ that begin with the statement ‘After he died, we found a box hidden in the house and it’s full of old money,” said Dave Sorrick, numismatist and owner of “In God We Trust, LLC.“
Millennials (Americans born between 1981 and 1996) are often ill-equipped to make informed decisions about this issue, as well as the many other possessions — like China, sterling silver, and stamp collections — that suddenly are theirs to keep or sell.
“Many of our adult children were not involved in many of our hobbies, which were popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Few were engaged in collections that did not involve Beanie Babies, Hot Wheels, or baseball cards, which were created and sold in retail stores to satisfy that urge to collect. Often, they were told not to touch their elders’ collections for fear of damaging it or losing it,” Sorrick stated. “This results in the heirs having no personal knowledge of the items or familiarity of the relationships involved in those hobbies or investments.”
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To proactively address this potential problem, Sorrick encourages communication between his customers and their families.
“Planning alleviates some of these obstacles and communicating those plans to adult heirs by the collector is a loving and thoughtful exercise. No one wants to talk about dying so discussions that start with ‘When I die, I want you to…’ are to be avoided. I recommend that the senior begins the conversation with ‘Now that you are an adult, I’d like to chat with you about my hobby.’ This approach allows less emotion and encourages conversation about a hobby or investment that has resulted in a lot of joy and pride for the collector. It also prepares the child or grandchild and permits the opportunity to ask questions and clarify the intentions of the elder,” Sorrick concluded.