Waiting for The Windfall

Ready to inherit a $5.3 trillion fortune, many baby boomers can't help feeling a bit smug. Too bad things won't be that easy.

CONSIDER FOR A MOMENT THE FInancial circumstances of an up-and-coming colleague or neighbor. Owns a nice house? Drives a new car? Dines out a lot? Appears calm even when discussing college tuition or the latest property-tax hike? Now take a good guess at his or her income. If it doesn't add up to the outgo, it's likely that the shortfall is being covered by one of the most important -- but little discussed -- determinants of baby-boomer wealth in the 1990s: family inheritance.

Although the subject of inheritance is one of the last taboos in the once crowded American closet, it's...

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