Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10419/108701
Authors: 
Francesconi, Marco
Pollak, Robert
Tabasso, Domenico
Year of Publication: 
2015
Series/Report no.: 
IZA Discussion Papers 8813
Abstract: 
Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we make two contributions to the literature on end-of-life transfers. First, we show that unequal bequests are much more common than generally recognized, with one-third of parents with wills planning to divide their estates unequally among their children. These plans for unequal division are particularly concentrated in complex families, that is, families with stepchildren and families with genetic children with whom the parent has had no contact (e.g., children from previous marriages). We find that in complex families past and current contact between parents and children reduces or eliminates unequal bequests. Second, although the literature focuses on the bequest intentions of parents who have made wills, we find that many elderly Americans have not made wills. Although the probability of having a will increases with age, 30 percent of HRS respondents aged 70 and over have no wills. Of HRS respondents who died between 1995 and 2010, 38 percent died intestate (i.e., without wills). Thus, focusing exclusively on the bequest intentions of parents who have made wills provides an incomplete and misleading picture of end-of-life transfers.
Subjects: 
bequests
intergenerational transfers
altruism
exchange
evolutionary motives
family structure
JEL: 
D13
J12
K36
Document Type: 
Working Paper

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