Spare the child and blow the inheritance

Leaving all your money to your grandchildren can be more trouble than it's worth.


Your starter for ten: who would want this 50-room stately home?
(Image credit: Copyright (c) 2015 Rex Features. No use without permission.)

For most people, inheriting a large 50-room stately home with 350 acres of grounds from a great-aunt would be a cause for celebration. However, Bamber Gascoigne quickly found the demands of the mansion, built in the 1400s, "absolutely impossible", he told Audrey Ward in The Sunday Times. For one thing, "there were a host of defects" that required millions of pounds to address. At the same time, it proved impossible to live in the "unbelievably cold" building. Gascoigne therefore took the sensible decision to transfer ownership to a charitable trust, while auctioning off the contents, which raised £5m in funds.

As part of this strategy, Gascoigne has allowed Grange Park Opera to take out a 99-year lease to build a 700-seater opera house on the grounds. This is good news for opera lovers in Surrey, who will be able to enjoy a wonderfully romantic setting. The "lushly planted and wooded estate" will also be "open for interval picnics and strolls", says Rupert Christiansen in The Daily Telegraph. However, such ambience didn't come cheap: the cost of the lease and construction costs for the theatre total £10m. It's lucky, then, that Grange Park's artistic directors are "very adroit at winkling money out of the wealthy", including one individual £1m donation from an investment banker.

Bamber Gascoigne is not alone in his ambiguous fortune. A survey by the insurers Royal London found that the typical estate expected to be left by grandparents averaged £400,000 to £500,000. This implies there is a "wealth mountain' of more than £400bn set to be passed on across the UK, says The Guardian. About half of grandparents plan to pass on wealth directly to their grandchildren, and many people in "the middle sandwich generation" either want to pass on the inheritance or "feel under pressure to hand it to their own adult children".

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The result is that "the world is full of similar, albeit much less wealthy, parents who, having given their children every advantage, find themselves saddled with pampered, flaky half-adults incapable of standing on their own two feet", thunders Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail. Such children "will never go that extra mile, stay that extra hour or get that earlier train because all the time in the back of their mind will be the knowledge that, if things go wrong, they'll be fine". In her view, the only "sensible solution", "whether your vice is fine wine or far-flung holidays", is to "spare the child and spend the inheritance".

One woman who seems to have taken this advice to heart is New Yorker Geraldine Lettieri. She is accused of treating her daughter's $30m trust fund, set up by her ex-husband, "like a piggy bank", says the New York Post. Indeed, after she wrested control of the fund she allegedly "plundered the real-estate portfolio to establish several failing investment corporations". She also splurged "on a BMW 325i, a Mini Cooper convertible and a $5.92m Amagansett mansion neighbouring actress Gwyneth Paltrow's Hamptons home". Lettieri did buy her daughter an apartment, but her daughter claims she "put the pad in her own name and used it as leverage to control her".

Tabloid money "Coffee is why God invented loose change"

Britain's local authorities closed 214 children's playgrounds between 2014 and 2016 and plan to shut down another 234, says Frederick Forsyth in the Daily Express. That's 448 places where our kids can no longer play and work off energy. There is, however, always a "cracking excuse" for failing to fill in the potholes or collect rubbish. What the councils don't tell you is that, if they delivered all these services, "they couldn't afford to reward more than 500 of their number with salaries higher than that of the prime minister". Former local government chief of Sunderland, Dave Smith, left with a mere £625,570. "See what I mean?"

How I feel for Wild Swans author Jung Chang, says Vanessa Feltz, also in the Daily Express. The "poor woman" lives next door to neighbours who plan to hollow out a basement extension to create "a spiral wine store" for their 1,000 bottles. Chang fears she won't be able to complete her next book. I can see her point. "Not only will her home be shaken to its core, the stairs will vibrate, the windows crack and rattle in their casements and the walls throb with pressure She will suffer deafening noise from eight in the morning till six in the evening, half day on Saturdays, blissful silence only on Sundays." She will at some point lose the will to live. If you want a spiral wine store, move to a large property in the country. "Councils should ban them forthwith."

Paul Harris popped into a branch of Costa and later saw he had been charged £599 on his credit card for a cappuccino and a slice of carrot cake. "You guessed it," says Tony Parsons in The Sun on Sunday. The bill should have been £5.99. "But Paul is one of those people who pay for a skinny latte with a credit card. Let this be a lesson to you, Paul," says Parsons. "Coffee is why God invented loose change."