Parents Say Money Isn't the Most Valuable Inheritance

Survey finds that most would rather pass on their perspective on life.

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Would you prefer that your children inherit an unmortgaged house or your jocular sense of humor? Most people might say their children could use the laughter more than the house, suggests an international survey by HSBC Insurance and Oxford University's Institute of Ageing. Both employees nearing retirement (between 40 and 60 years old) and retirees (between 60 and 69 years of age) say they would rather pass on their personality traits than money.

Some 81 percent of respondents in the United States said they want their heirs to inherit personal values like spirit/sense of humor (38 percent), knowledge (20 percent), religion (16 percent), and commitment to supporting the community (7 percent), according to an HSBC Insurance press release. Just 19 percent of Americans surveyed want to leave heirs property (13 percent) or money (6 percent), the release said.

This inclination to distribute values rather than cash or property also is characteristic of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. "We want to pass on our perspective on life and our knowledge from generation to generation," says Stephen Green, group chairman of HSBC.

Tell us, what do you plan to bequeath to your loved ones?