For many parents it seems obvious that because their children have different life circumstances it is fair to treat them differently in their estate plans. The children often have different ideas than the parents about what is fair and that can lead to problems.
Most parents strive to treat all of their children equally. Doing that does not mean all children are treated exactly the same.
Children with more needs are often given more than other children. Adult children tend to understand that this is fair.
If one child is given money to start a business, the other children normally do not expect their parents to give them an equal amount if they do not need it. Instead, they accept it and just expect that if they ever need money themselves, then their parents will also be there for them.
When it comes to their parents’ estate plans, adult children tend to think differently about not receiving the same amount as siblings as the New York Times discussed in “How a Will Treating Children Differently Can Still Be Fair.”
Children often view their parents’ final bequests as a proxy for favor and love. Their initial reaction to a parent leaving more for one child than another is that the parents love one child more than the other.
For parents, however, that is not normally the case.
Instead, the parents view it as an extension of what they have always done and just giving more to the child who needs it more. This difference of opinion about the meaning of unequal inheritances can lead to sibling fights over their parents’ estates.
There is often a very simple way such fights can be avoided.
Before passing away the parents can talk to their children about what they are thinking of doing in their estate plans and why.
The assistance of a qualified estate planning attorney can help facilitate this process as an objective third party.
Reference: New York Times (July 29, 2016) “How a Will Treating Children Differently Can Still Be Fair.”