Many are already handing out cash gifts and loans to hard-pressed family members or are still trying to pay off their own loans and mortgage debt, according to Aviva's Real Retirement report.
Meeting living costs and providing immediate financial support to family were seen as bigger priorities among the over-55s than building up an inheritance pot.
Some 21% of people aged between 55 and 64 said they do not expect to leave any inheritance behind at all, including property or money.
Clive Bolton, managing director of Aviva's At Retirement business, said that in the tough economy younger family members are often reliant on their parents for financial support to buy a house or provide for their children.
He said that for some over-55s, the desire to leave an inheritance plays "second fiddle" to more urgent financial priorities. More than one quarter (27%) of 55 to 64-year-olds were found to still have an outstanding mortgage, with £70,000 on average needing to be repaid.
High living costs were blamed for much of the increase, with the over-55s typically spending around £168 more on food shopping and £63 on travel costs annually than they did a year ago.
However, the proportion of over-55s with non-mortgage debt has shrunk back from 12% in May 2012 to 9% in May 2013, indicating that debts are becoming increasingly concentrated among a smaller group of people.
More than 16,000 people aged over 55 have taken part in the quarterly reports for Aviva since they began in February 2010.
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