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How to Deal with Inheritance Guilt or Windfall Guilt

Updated on August 29, 2016
Feeling you can't trust anyone and facing loneliness and guilt about your inheritance or windfall are normal.
Feeling you can't trust anyone and facing loneliness and guilt about your inheritance or windfall are normal.

Inheritance guilt and guilt over windfalls are among the most common emotions in relation to financial abundance. Most people would believe that a sudden change for the better in a person's economic status should make the person feel blessed and optimistic, but this is usually not the case.

If you have received money in a will or life insurance as the result of someone passing away or have won money in a lottery, you might be overcome by feelings of guilt.

This hub will help you understand how to deal with Inheritance Guilt or Windfall Guilt.

Loneliness and Trust Issues

First, you might actually face problems with trust -- trusting friends, other family members, and especially people you know on social media with your status. You might not feel you can actually talk to people you know about your guilt with new-found riches -- and you're right.

People who have money always fear letting other people know they have this money because it can bring out the ugly side in in individuals easily. You might find others wanting to get close to you out of the blue because you have something they would almost die for -- financial security. So especially when you're in a vulnerable state, do not divulge to anyone unnecessarily that you came into money. It is best to speak to a therapist or someone in a very similar situation to you.

Inheritance Guilt

Here are the most common reasons Inheritance Guilt arises and a helpful how-to for dealing with each feeling.

You are depressed but feel you aren't permitted to be depressed because you received a generous inheritance that should make your life easy.

  • Answer: No matter how much money you have, you are still a human being and your mourning period is not determined by how much money you have to your name. Money makes life easier but does not shield you from emotional pain. Free yourself from these thoughts and allow yourself to mourn.

You have evaluated your life as a result of your benefactor dying, and you believe that your actions, morals, and ethics should exclude you from deserving so much prosperity.

  • Answer: Become active in volunteer organizations or charities that are important to you or were important to your benefactor. Consider donating a small percentage of your inheritance to the good cause. No matter what you have done in your past, you have a choice to improve your character for the better now and in the future.

You feel you should be achieving in life on your own but your inheritance has made it too easy for you. In essence, you might feel you are "not good enough" and "don't deserve" to have an easier life because you haven't earned it.

  • Answer: If you believe in destiny or that your life is in God's hands, then you will understand that what you are experiencing was actually meant to be. You can always try your hand at things in life that don't require money. Then you will not need to measure your success this way.

A person you dearly loved has died. Only from life being taken away from them were you able to receive so much money. Since there is no way to bring your loved one back, your guilt could be deep-set and long-lasting.

  • Answer: Realize that you have this money because the departed loved you. And this was their gift to you to ease you through the loss of having them in your life.

Someone you were related to but did not have a close relationship with has died. This brings about feelings such as, "I should be very upset, but I barely knew him/her. Do I really deserve this money?"

  • Answer: People who leave money to distant relatives because they have no close relatives feel an obligation to their bloodline regardless of the familiarity with the recipient. They would rather their assets go to someone they are related to than an individual they have no blood connection with. In this case, you need to think about the wishes of the giver. They would not have left you this money if they had any doubts about you. So you should not doubt whether you deserve it.

You did not get along with the person who left you money.

  • If your relation left you money, but you had a falling out or fight with them at some point, it can make you feel like you can never repay them for the "last thing you said to them." Or you repeatedly think, "If only things could have ended differently." But the person who left you money loved you or thought highly of you anyway. Rifts do not always reflect the true character of someone but often just reveal shortcomings and misunderstandings, which we have all been mired in.

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Windfall Guilt

Here are the most common reasons Windfall Guilt arises and a helpful answer to each feeling.

You feel you did literally nothing to deserve your winnings.

  • Answer: Enjoy lottery winnings and other windfalls with a clear conscience. Though this kind of money seems to be won by pure chance, consider the other things that have happened to you in your life simply by chance. You will realize there is a share of both good and bad things that have happened to you in your life. Perhaps you were very sick at one point, never found your soul mate, or were the victim of a crime. While we are taught to accept the bad things that happen to us in life, we also have to learn to accept the good. Here is your chance to do that.
  • Think far into the future about making the money last. While you are confused now, realize that this money will help you secure a better, more financially prosperous life in your older years, a time in your life you might be much more vulnerable. Keep working if you wish so you feel more at ease with deserving what you get, and invest wisely. You can be happy in your older years with a conscious decision you make today.

You see how other people are suffering - family, neighbors, entire countries, and while you want the money, realizing that you are now in a league of a lucky few feels more like a burden than a blessing.

  • Answer: You cannot save the world nor should you try - but you can help out within reason. People you are very close to are generally safe bets to help out financially, but be aware of people who show up repeatedly to ask for help and those you barely know who appear with open hands. You can set aside a portion of your windfall to help those you love and you can also do this for a charity. But do not get taken advantage of.

How to Deal with Inheritance Guilt or Windfall Gult
How to Deal with Inheritance Guilt or Windfall Gult


  • Speak to a grief counselor to help you through your mourning period and any intense feelings of guilt.
  • Do not hire a financial advisor until you are able to focus on financial issues with a clear mind. Place your money in FDIC savings accounts until then.
  • If you hire a financial advisor, do not hire one that works on commission. You need someone that will help you with your goals and not take adantage of your financial status.


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