The Safe Harbor

For Your Legal Needs

Most parents will never admit they have a favorite child, no matter how often their kids beg to know. Most parents won’t admit it because they don’t have a favorite child. They love their children in different ways and maintain unique relationships with each of their children.
It makes sense to consider each unique relationship with your children as you’re developing an estate plan and decide who receives which assets.

Equal vs. fair

There are many cases where an equal inheritance among all your children wouldn’t be fair. The children may feel resentment if they do not perceive the division as fair among the family members, so how do you determine a fair distribution?

It will look different for each family. However, there are two common approaches for defining fair:

1. Everyone receives an equal dollar amount or the same amount in assets.
2. You distribute assets based on past financial help or those children who are in greater need.

a. Does one child have a far better education and far greater capability of earning
significant income during the course of their lifetime or does their spouse/partner
have a significantly larger income than the other child or children or their partners
or spouse?

b. Is one or more of your children addicts? Are their spouses or partners addicts? Are
they or their spouses or partners serious spendthrifts with spending habits that cannot
be controlled by your child?

c. Is one or more of your children disabled/handicapped? Is a Special Needs Trust a
viable solution for them or do one or more of your children have children who are
disabled/handicapped?

Obviously there are many more reasons which may suggest less than equal division between or among your children or grandchildren.

If you decide to adjust the division based on other factors such as financial help or other circumstances, you may want to have a family conversation asking your children their opinions and explaining what your intentions are. Let them know ahead of time why you are making less then equal provision for each of them. Seriously consider their responses and, perhaps, their advice with regard to the manner in which you are leaving your assets to them. Having a conversation beforehand removes the element of surprise and hopefully reduces tension between your children.

Whatever you decide, make sure that you are making the right decision for your estate. Try not to focus on making everyone happy but on a plan that best fits your wishes and family situation.