When it comes to deciding how to leave property to your children, the clearest choice is to divide everything into equal shares. That is the straightforward choice when all your children are doing equally well.
But if not – if, for example, your son is a starving artist with mouths to feed and your childless daughter has made millions on Wall Street – the temptation is to leave more to him than to her.
That decision, however, can have consequences. There’s a good chance that your daughter might feel hurt. Favoring one child over another has symbolic meaning. You don’t want to leave behind disappointment and resentment.
Also, estate planning is about considering the long term. Even if your daughter has no children of her own now, she may have them in the future. If you leave her nothing, both she and her children will have nothing to keep your memory alive.
Moreover, these days anyone’s financial situation can take a sudden turn for the worse. Illness, injury, or natural disaster can strike. Marriages can split. Investment decisions might fail. Assets can be lost or stolen. Credit may dry up. While hopefully none of these gloomy misfortunes will befall your daughter, it’s wiser to provide your daughter with some cushion.
If you still want to leave your son more than your daughter, sit down with your children and explain why you’re doing that. Even if your daughter might be unhappy to hear it, at least she would have less reason to blame your son later. And you never know. We have seen people in your daughter’s position freely agree. That love and generosity, on the more-advantaged child’s part, can make everybody happy.
— By Dara M. Hensel, Estate Planning Paralegal