Many parents divide their assets equally among their children. That’s the easy way.
But what if you want to give more to one child than to another? Is that fair? Is it a good idea?
Sometimes it may be the best plan. For example, maybe one of your children earns much more than the others. Does this child really need to share equally in your estate?
Maybe one of your children has several children of his own, while the others are childless or have only one child. That may be a good case for giving the child with the most children a larger share.
Another reason might be that one of your children spent a lot of time and energy caring for you in your old age. Shouldn’t that child get rewarded?
And what if one of your children went down the wrong path? Maybe he became addicted to drugs or alcohol. Should this behavior be reinforced?
These are difficult decisions posed in an article in the Wall Street Journal. And they can lead to hurt feelings, lawsuits and other problems.
If you end up giving different children differing amounts in your will or estate plan, your decision may end up being challenged in court by the child or children who got less. It could turn into a mess.
To make sure your wishes are carried out, make sure to prove that you are of “sound mind” when you drew up your plan. You might want to get a letter from your doctor or psychologist saying so.
At the same time, make sure to talk to each of your children and explain what you are doing and why. This could result in fewer bad feelings.
Perhaps you can establish a pattern by helping those who need the most help while you are alive, as well as helping those who help you by giving them financial support during that time.
You can also include clauses mandating that disputes be settled through mediation or arbitration, not litigation. You can even include a “no contest” clause that says if any of the beneficiaries tries to contest the will, that child’s share is forfeited.
These are tough decisions that your estate planning attorney can help you make when drafting your will or estate plan.