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As a dad and a newly-crowned grandfather, I can honestly say that every parent wants to love and treat all their children the same, but as an experienced attorney, I know that when it comes to estate planning, not every child should be treated the same.
In fact, insisting on treating all children exactly the same in an estate plan can often lead to disastrous consequences.
One of your children may have inherited your smile, and the other your spouse’s whit, or your great-grandmother’s knack for cooking, but they all did not inherit the same characteristics.
Each of your children is unique, and their circumstances may grow increasingly different, especially as they become adults and acquire jobs and extended in-law families.
For this reason, each child should be treated as a unique individual.
Consider treating your children differently in an estate plan, but still equally:
- Not naming all of your children as successor executors.
- Gifting the annual gift exclusion of $13,000 outright to some children while putting it in trust for another child.
- Leaving one child’s inheritance outright while leaving another child’s inheritance in trust—possibly even skipping a generation to help children or grandchildren.
Your children will be different people, with different strengths and weaknesses. While one child may love the trust and challenge that comes with being named executor, another might feel crushed under the weight of responsibility.
One child might take an outright inheritance and invest it for retirement, while another child may want to do that, but have an ex-spouse or creditors who would seize an unprotected sum of money, leaving the heir with nothing.
It is impossible to treat all of your children exactly the same. You need to be aware of their circumstances, strengths and weaknesses, and give them an equal inheritance in different ways.