Can an Estate Plan Treating Children Differently Still Be Fair?

One thing every parent know is that their children crave attention.  And if you have more than one child, then you know the attention needs to be equal.

The game to get your attention can take place with your estate plan.  An inheritance can viewed in the eyes of children as a last accounting of their parent’s  love.  So the question becomes –

Can anything but an equal share be fair”

Reasons for Treating Children Different

The choice to be even on or not on inheritances is entirely up to the parents.  There might be logical reasons for a parent to treat their children different.  Yet, parents need understand it can be difficult emotionally for children to be treated differently in inheritances.

There are clear instances when parents want to treat their children different.  A usual case where siblings agree is if one child has special needs that requires continuous funding.

In other instances, the emotional aspect looms larger.

When parents decide to leave a much larger share to the son who is a teacher than the daughter who is a successful doctor.  The parents may love both their children equally, but feel their son needs the money more.  The daughter may have a hard time understanding the reasons and see it as favoritism.  This could ultimately impact her relationship with her brother.

What Should You Do?

First, decide if you want to “treat your children equally or fairly” There is nothing wrong with leaving your children equal shares.

Next, make sure you have an estate plan.  And that your estate plan, will do what you want.  It needs to detail how much your children should receive and also when they will receive it.  This might be different for each child.

Lastly, talk with your children.   Communication is key.  If you’re planning to treat your children differently, make sure they know this.  Most children probably assume everything will be divided equally.

Make sure they know the reasons why your estate plan is set up the why it is.  An open dialogue is important to avoid later problems

Often times, problems can be minimized, if not resolved with a conversation.

Make sure your children know plans now instead when you won’t be around to deal with the consequences.

Scott Aubrey is  an estate planning and business law attorney in Needham, Massachusetts, who helps families and small businesses plan for their future.  He is also the owner of Aubrey Law.

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