The Best Way to Leave an Inheritance

Retirees are considering new ways to leave money to heirs.

Will and testament with cash

[Read: Boomers Need to Talk About Long-Term Care.]

Just as Sandoval's client blended several motivations – his personal financial situation and business continuation – into his plan for transferring ownership of real estate to his son, consider a gradual release of assets through a family limited partnership. Such a partnership, Sandoval says, transfers the ownership, but not control, of assets, to the next generation, letting them ease into their stewardship. Under such an arrangement, the new owners reap income from the assets, such as rental income or earnings on stocks, and are also responsible for taxes on those earnings.

If your estate is worth less than $2 million, chances are that your top priority is not taking care of your heirs, but ensuring you won't outlive your money.

"For the vast majority of people with less than $2 million, they don't have the freedom to give away money now because they need it to survive themselves, or in case of a long-term illness," Sandoval says. "It's really more of a wealth question than a motivational question."

Don't feel bad. When it comes to inheritances, reality doesn't always align with popular culture. According to the HSBC study, 61 percent of preretirees and 76 percent of current retirees report that they never received a significant financial gift from their own parents or a relative.