You love your children. You probably love them each in their own way, because they are unique. Maybe you have a son who is outgoing, whose laughter is contagious. Maybe you are in awe of a daughter who has the most generous heart.
You see your children as individuals. Is it wrong to treat them as such in your will?
More parents are leaving the ‘down to the penny’ accounting aside
There is now a growing trend among parents to create final wills that distribute assets unequally among their children. Business Insider recently reported a study conducted by The National Bureau of Economic Research, showing that between 1995 and 2010, the unequal distribution of assets from parents to children has more than doubled, rising from 16 percent to 35 percent.
What are referred to as simple and complex families, have both seen dramatic increases in the number of unequal wills since 1995. Stepchildren are 61 percent – 72 percent as likely to share equally with other biologically related children. Stepchildren are also more likely to be named in the will if the stepparent is wealthy.
You can measure ‘equal’ in different ways
The one-size-fits-all estate plan seems to be rooted in the concept of loving all of one’s children equally and of demonstrating the equal care of each child proportionally in the will. However, the growing argument against this type of strategy is that an estate plan that treats your kids as individuals and also denotes the personal relationship you shared with that child is in actuality, the type of support most conducive to their well-being.
As children grow into young adults and adulthood, it becomes easier to discern what type of career path they may choose, what their financials may be like, and about their individual characteristics and qualities. When constructing your will you may want to ask yourself specific questions about each child, not about which one is your favorite, but specific questions pertaining to their unique needs so that you can support them in a way that is appropriate such as:
· How does each child require your help?
· How can you help each child individually?
· What specific tools do they need to be successful?
· Do they have different goals in life?
· Do they face different challenges?
Bring your children into the conversation
It’s always good to get an estate planner involved to make sure that every detail is covered, but are they the only people whom with you should share your plans?
One of the most helpful thing you can do for your estate planning is to communicate with children about what they will receive after your death. If a will does not treat children equally, it is best to discuss it with each of them privately. That way you can explain your reasoning and perhaps shed some light on why you believe your plan is fair for them.
Having these discussions and possible disputes with the kids early on can help to prevent costly personal disputes or litigation between the siblings upon discovery. Moreover, disclosing your plans can help set their expectations and help avoid them from misplaced emotions – like thinking you loved one child over another.