Equal Treatment Under the Estate Plan -- Whether or Not to Treat Your Children Equally

May 25, 2012

When it comes time to create an estate plan, most parents  assume that they should treat their adult children the same under the plan. A parent may not want the children to think they are favoring one child over another. While equal treatment may be the goal, it doesn’t necessarily mean treating them all the same.
Your children have their own individual strengths and weaknesses. They each have chosen separate paths in life. They each, no doubt,  want different things from life. Just as they are all individuals, you may treat them as such in your estate plan.
If you happen to have one child who is an attorney, an accountant or a financial advisor,  it may make sense to nominate them as the personal representative or trustee as opposed to someone with less business experience.
In deciding  who gets what, the same philosophy applies. You may want to give them all equal shares, but you should consider discussing the issue with the children or other beneficiaries. While one may need a home more than cash, before making that choice for them discuss whether it would be fair or prudent to leave them a particular piece of real property or cash to purchase the place they would prefer. Another may have issues such as creditors, special needs or substance addiction, that call for creating a trust instead of outright distribution to her. Yet another may be a philanthropist and prefer that you contribute his share to a charity.
Your estate planning attorney can guide you through this process and help you find solutions to these challenges, so take advantage of the experience and expertise available to you.

Wealth Counsel
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