Whether you're a Maltese named Trouble who's been left $12 million by bossy hotelier Leona Helmsley or a boomer who's received a portfolio full of IBM ( IBM) and Merck ( MRK) stock from your parents, an inheritance holds the promise of changing your life.
If you don't blow it, that is. And blowing it is a distinct possibility. Because as much as it sounds like a dream come true, inheriting money is also stressful -- psychologically, emotionally and even physically. (Trouble the Maltese may be an exception.) Many inheritors deal poorly -- or not at all -- with all that stress, which can have disastrous consequences. Think ruined sibling relationships, nasty divorces and empty bank accounts. Want to avoid that fate? Below are the top three traps you should be aware of when you become a beneficiary.
Trap One: Acting Too Fast
The reality is that you typically only receive an inheritance when someone close to you dies. As a result, grieving -- not investing -- needs to be at the top of your to-do list. That's not just psychobabble; people who've lost someone important typically have trouble sleeping and are forgetful and inconsistent -- not qualities you frequently find in savvy investors. "You may have been really great at communication and compliant with the requests that people make of you, and all of a sudden you're looking like a whack job," says Susan Bradley, founder of the Sudden Money Institute in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. "That's OK as long as everyone around you understands that this is normal -- and temporary."