As the father of more than one child, I understand the desire to try and treat children as equally as possible. You certainly don’t want one child to think you love him/her any less, or more, than your other children (though children will inevitably feel that way at one time or another), and you want the best for all of your children. But while children may share the same parents, may grow up in the same house and may be raised in the same manner, they are very much like snowflakes. Each one is truly unique. However, when dividing your estate, it may be beneficial to treat your kids unequally.
Some differences are apparent from the very beginning, while others emerge over time. Some differences, such as differences in health, may be largely decided by fate. Other differences, such as the difference between children’s incomes or financial well-being, may be more the product of choices, such as a child’s chosen profession.
The more different children become, the more parents may be tempted to treat them unequally at death (provided those differences are not merely the product of poor life choices). This, of course, is an intensely personal decision for many parents, and emotions can span the spectrum. Some parents are determined to “help out” a needier child more when they are gone. Others are set on treating their children equally upon their passing. Some would like to leave greater amounts to one child than another, but are concerned that doing so might create family problems after their death or lead to incorrect assumptions (“see, mom and dad really did love him more”).
By Jeffrey Levine, Director of Retirement Education
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