In March, Sukran Sir lost her father. Then she lost her job.
There was more bad news: The 58-year-old Ventura County resident was expecting to get unemployment benefits but hasn't heard whether she qualifies, despite two phone interviews.
Sir, who goes by the nickname "Suki," is counting on her inheritance to help turn things around. Sir's father, Suleyman, a former aerospace engineer, left her about $80,000 in cash and stocks and the family home in Oxnard.
But even that gain won't ensure a comfortable retirement, and it comes wrapped in complications.
"I have so many friends who are in my situation, either taking care of their parents or their parents have just passed away or are about to," Sir said. "Our parents didn't think very carefully about estate planning or trusts. He was like, 'You're my daughter, of course it is going to you.' He thought there wouldn't be any problems."
Many baby boomers are finding out that the bequests they'd been counting on may not be quite the windfall they'd expected. They're receiving less money than had been anticipated as recently as the 1990s, when experts were projecting a huge wealth transfer as the postwar generation passed on.
"The average inheritance is actually quite small, just fractionally above $40,000," said Anthony Webb, senior research economist at Boston College's Center for Retirement Research.
Webb attributed the diminished payout to stock market downturns and the recession. In addition, boomers' parents are living longer and facing higher costs for health services and long-term care.
"The average home price in America is only a fraction of what it is in Southern California," Webb said, "and it's very easy for that housing wealth to be eaten up by long-term care costs and the like."
Sir is better off than most. Her parents left her a mortgage-free home valued at about $420,000, bringing her inheritance up to about $500,000.
But estate planning can be confusing, and the hand-over isn't always smooth.
Sir already has made a common mistake: She closed her father's bank and credit union accounts shortly after his death and now she's having trouble cashing dividend checks from an investment account because they were made out to her father's estate.
"Do not prematurely close the deceased's bank accounts," said certified financial planner Sandra C. Field, who reviewed Sir's finances. "Wait six months, nine months or even a year."
Sir ran into more difficulties because funds from the credit union were made out to the estate.
It would have been easier for Sir if her father had established "payable on death" bank accounts naming her as the designated recipient or had set up a "transfer on death" designation affidavit, Field said.
Complicating the picture, Field said, is that rush of emotions that comes with an inheritance for adult children nearing the end of their working years.
"They are terrified about doing something wrong," Field said. "They tend to have some debt, not a lot of savings.... Some view it as their last chance to save their retirement."
Many people haven't saved enough on their own to maintain their accustomed lifestyle in retirement. Among those ages 55 to 64 with 401(k) plans or IRAs, the average amount saved per household was just $120,000, Webb said, and they are the lucky ones. Among those with no 401(k) or IRA accounts, Webb said, "it's pretty certain that they have virtually nothing in savings."
Sir has about $100,000 in savings and investments as well as about $18,000 in credit card debt.
She dreams of being able to travel to places such as her native country, Turkey. She had planned to do some serious remodeling on her Oxnard home, perhaps even replacing the roof.