Dividing your assets between your children can be a stressful ordeal. Many parents want to be fair to everyone, which they equate with an even split of all assets. But for most families, an even split doesn’t make the most sense.
How you handle this complicated situation with your own family may depend on many factors, but the most important thing to realize is that if you don’t make the division of assets clear in your will, it could lead to many complications for your children after you are gone.
As pointed out in the New York Times article, “How a Will Treating Children Differently Can Still Be Fair,” the first thing parents need to realize is they have the option of leaving their estate to whoever they want, in whatever portions they want. You’re not required to split your assets fairly or evenly. Naturally, in most cases, parents do want to at least attempt to be fair to their children, but it’s not a necessity.
Even when parents do want a fair distribution, this does not necessarily mean that every child will get the same amount. For example, if one child has special needs, he may need more money in order to be provided for in the long term. Alternatively, if one of your children is a successful brain surgeon, and the other is a schoolteacher, you may want to gift the latter child a larger portion of your inheritance. Even though the distribution is not equal, it might still be fair.
Of course, the article points out that what you think is fair may not be seen that way by your children. Your surgeon child may feel slighted. After all, she worked very hard to get to the point where she’s so successful, and may not feel that it’s fair of you to leave her a lesser share.
It’s important to discuss your estate planning as a family, if you want to make sure there are no misunderstandings or disputes after you have died. It’s also necessary to realize that if you aren’t careful in your will, your intentions may not be clear to your executor, and the estate may be divided in an unequal manner despite your wishes otherwise.
For instance, if you leave an insurance policy to one child, yet direct that your assets should be divided evenly overall, that will not apply to the insurance policy. An insurance policy, retirement account, or bank account will pass directly to the person named, and not be divided with the rest of your assets.
We recommend that you work with an estate-planning professional. Discuss your goals and intentions in a clear manner with whoever is helping you write your will, and there should be no misunderstanding in how your estate is distributed.
At Kreisher Marshall & Associates, LLC, we have more than 40 years of experience helping families plan their futures, preserve their wealth, and distribute assets to their loved ones. Call our Columbia County estate planning lawyers at (570) 784-5211 to schedule a free consultation today.