Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Should wealth be inherited?

 Inheriting wealth rather than earning wealth is gaining money through material goods through the means of a person passing or gifting you money and material possessions. It’s a popular practise in upper-class families, and keeps the wealth constant through the family history- usually passed down through the family in order to keep a house or to keep the family at a constant class level. It’s very much “keeping it in the family”, however, there has always been controversy about money and it’s a very controversial subject. It is sometimes seen as unfair, with not everyone getting the same opportunities to gain wealth or get a head start in life that money may bring them. There are some people who inheriting family businesses, gaining millions and yet there are people who work hard day in and day out just to keep their heads above water. The debate about whether wealth should be inherited has happened for centuries, causing family splits and bitterness among people. Not all is bad however, with families having the opportunity to give loved ones a gift at the sadness of their passing, and giving them more opportunity in life. People who have worked all their life, only to get inheritance tax by the government are in uproar. Why should their hard earned savings be put in the hand of the government? And isn't their money theirs to give to whomever they please? It’s an issue that is individual to each person, and it’s only possible to scratch the surface in this article about the different circumstances or issues that may come about when inheriting wealth.
  There are plenty of pros when it comes to inheritance. It gives people a head start in life. It’s hard enough to get on the property ladder these days; so many young people rely on inheritance from elder family members in order to get a financial head start. It also keeps your money in your family; which may mean protecting the family name and wealth you may have built up. It’s a popular practise in middle class or upper class families, and it keeps their class constant throughout history. Even a small inheritance can go towards education or business opportunities that bring a better life to all. There is also the fact that it won’t go in the governments pockets (well, at least some of it won’t); and why should someone’s hard earned money that they have saved all their life go into a system where they don’t know where it will end up? It gives a person control over their life, and a purpose for saving or buying an estate. It is a person’s money, and after all it’s theirs to spend how they choose. However, it’s not all as clean cut. Some people inherit millions from family members, yet seem to have no prospects or purpose. They are simply known for being rich- which tends to give them a privileged air over others. It’s argued that these people are undeserving of their wealth- and everyone should be given the same start in life.
  This brings us to the cons of inheriting wealth. Inheriting wealth can create a divide between classes and people. It’s sad but true that money does open a lot of doors in life- you just have to look at the difference between third world countries and first world. Why shouldn’t everybody be given the same start in life? Obviously that would be insanely difficult to put in place- but to an extent it is an extremely valid point. Inherited wealth creates more advantaged people with more opportunity. Those who have worked hard all their life may feel belittled or scorned meeting somebody such as Paris Hilton, who, by chance has walked into a life of luxury and mansions just because she was born into her rich fathers Hilton network. You can also inherit a money mess. When a loved one dies, it’s one thing to have to go through a basement full of boxes and quite another to get stuck with the departed’s debt. A person could have died unexpectedly, intending to sort out their debt beforehand. Tax liens and debt could be now your problem. This leaves us wondering, if it’s not all sunshine and rainbows- how much responsibility do we have for someone else’s wealth?
 The government stance on inheritance is pretty much, as long as they get inheritance Tax they are happy to let inheritance happen. The inheritance Tax threshold is currently £325,000 and stands at 40% of anything above this threshold. The executor of personal representative for the person who has died pays the inheritance Tax using the funds from the estate. This has to be paid within 6 months from the end of the month of which the person died. The money is split between the individuals if the person has written a will, and if not it will go to the married or civil partner of the deceased. If there is no surviving spouse or civil partner, it’s distributed between any surviving children- and goes throughout the family in order of blood line. Eventually, if the money has no place to go- it goes to the government who puts it into government funds.
 There are plenty of famous faces who are famous for inheriting wealth. Some people call inheriting wealth luck, and others just say that it’s being born into the right circumstances. Sam Branson is the son of Sir Richard Branson, and is worth an estimated $3.8 billion. He is the man behind Virgin, a well known company that is famous for Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin fuels. These are not all they provide and the list is endless. Sam is due to inherit the wealth, but it would be interesting to see just how involved he is in his father’s business- something that I believe will show his true character when it comes to the sensitive subject of money. Then there is Ivanka Trump- the daughter of Donald Trump. She is due to inherit all her father’s personal wealth and estate. However, she is very involved in the family business and is vice president of real estate development and acquisitions of the Trump Organisation. It’s good to see someone with such wealth still working in life, something that I feel would really lack in a person’s character if they simply just lived the life of luxury with no real input into working and gaining independence. Paris Hilton is a very famous heir, and seems to have forged a career for herself simple from inheriting money. Critics say that Hilton epitomizes the title of being famous for being famous and she is an example of the modern phenomenon of the “celebtutant”… this is the celebrate who is famous not because of their talents but because of their inherited wealth. Hilton sees herself as an icon, and personally, it’s not an icon I’d like any future daughters adoring.
 Socially and economically, it’s sad to see that individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds receive less inheritance and wealth. It’s common throughout history that individuals with a substantial amount of wealth often intermarry with similar classes- therefore creating a cycle of privilege. This creates a hierarchy system, which ultimately divides society.
 There are some things to think about when it comes to inheritance.

-          Who deserves money?
-          How to you differentiate?
-          Should we all have the same chance in life?
-          Should those inheriting wealth be forced to live a certain type of lifestyle?
-          If it any different to winning a cash prize?
-          Should hard working individuals get taxed, even whilst dead?
 I decided to conduct a survey to find out what people thought. I conducted my survey using an online survey website, survey monkey. 10 people answered my survey, with 7 people saying “yes, money should be inherited”. Some of the reasons included: “I think the person whose wealth it is should have the choice. In a way they already have. They can chose to spend their savings on themselves when they retire of can chose to save it for their children for example.” Another said, “Yes, you should be able to inherit but it would be prudent to cap it at something like 2 million”. 3 out of 10 people however said no, they didn't think wealth should be inherited. The most popular reason for this answer was it was “unfair”. Sadly, not many people who said no gave a reason as to why it should not be inherited. There are a few issues with the survey, such as it was based on a small demographic and I am unsure of the age/background/class or wealth of the people who answered.

 In conclusion, I do believe that wealth should be allowed to be inherited. If your parents want to leave you money, then why not? As long as people work hard in life and never lose sight of what is real, there should be no problem. I don’t believe that wealth should be a “career” however, and feel embarrassed by people who are famous for simply just having money and spending it crazily. In this world, it’s important to know the value of money and never leave sight of that. If you do inherit billions, the moral thing to do would be to help out the world with things such as poverty and charity. There is never enough money when it comes to such issues. This is all dependant on how much you get, of course. A “regular” person may just get enough to perk their life up, enable them to go to University or purchase their first home. Some people in life of course won’t get any, but I don’t feel they should let it control them, in the same way that people who may get inheritance let it consume them. You shouldn't rely on it, and never let it change your character. Life is full of ups and downs, and sometimes it’s unfair. This will never change.
 Jessica Martin 

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