Planned and Unplanned Bequests
NBER Working Paper No. 1496 (Also Reprint No. r0839)
We make the distinction between bequests that are planned as part of some lifetime optimization stemming from a bequest motive, and those that are unplanned and result when the date of death differs from what the consumer might forecast. Lifetime optimization should lead to a negative effect or no effect of the expected horizon on the size of the bequest, and to a negative relation between unexpectedly long life and the bequest. Using data on wealthy decedents and their parents, we form measures of the expected horizon based on parents' longevity. There is no relation between unexpectedly early or late death and the bequest, but a significant positive relation between the bequest and the length of the horizon. Several explanations for this unforeseen result are offered, including the inference that uncertainty about length of life is important in studying bequest behavior.
Published: Hamermesh, Daniel S. and Paul L. Menchik. "Planned and Unplanned Bequests," Economic Inquiry, Vol. 25, No. 1, January 1987, pp. 55-66.