Should Children Be Given an Equal Share in Your Estate Plan?

Written by Robert Nickerson

Here’s a scenario that a lot of parents of two children will likely debate about; should the distribution of your assets be equal? You might think, “how dare you suggest this concept. Everyone needs to have a fair share”. I understand why you’d think two children should probably have assets split down the middle. But let’s consider something; let’s say one child created a successful business and already has a net worth of multimillions, and your other is an aspiring actor whose currently working a minimum wage to make ends meet. It really makes you wonder what qualifies as “fair”
 
The real challenge is deciding what you consider fair. Chances are your children aren’t going to like your definition of it. It’s going to depend on one’s financial situation and what kind of contribution they’ve made to you. Does having a standard on “fair” make you a bad person? No, not at all. People do this all the time. What matters is how your communicating with them about it.
 
When estate plans are produced, I’ve stressed the importance of talking to your family about what you want. While things tend to go smooth, once its time to figure out your assets, it’s inevitable that conflicts will arise. You might have a son who feels like their entitled to a larger share because of their financial situation. But’s it’s possible that the other son might make a justifiable case that they want a larger share because they’ve been by your side through the worst of times. It can get complicated, though I’ll admit that no matter what happens, someone will probably be disappointed.
 
One of the reasons a lot of people will be quick to split shares of assets, is to prove that as a parent, you have equal unconditional love for both. The truth of the matter is unconditional love is not the same as respect. Do you respect all your children? Do you agree with their choices? This might be a reason you may want to give a little more or a little less. There’s a reason you want to give your Nintendo loving son a new Super Mario game while the golf-loving son gets the new driver he wanted.
 
When clients ask me about dividing assets, I leave it up to them, but I also bring up that it’s okay to disagree with other family members; you just need to address it to them and explain why. More often then not, everyone is always willing to sit and listen. They just might agree why one gets more then the other.
 
We can help guide you towards the right decisions, even if you know tough choices need to be made. Contact our office to know more about how we can help with an estate plan and your children

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