Monday, July 31, 2017
When drafting a will, it can be difficult for testators to decide how to distribute their assets fairly. When dividing bequests among beneficiaries, it can be difficult to decide if wealthy, financially independent children should receive the same legacy as children who are not as financially stable. While an uneven division may seem fair when drafting the will, lopsided distributions of assets may prove problematic over time, as previously wealthy children undergo divorce, job loss, or financial strain and financially unsuccessful children enjoy a reversal in fortune.
Even substantially equivalent distributions may not be totally fair. Consider three children: twenty-four, twenty, and sixteen. If a parent were to pass away leaving each child $250,000, the two older children may benefit substantially more than their younger counterpart. It is likely that the two older children had a portion of their education expenses paid from their parent’s estate. The youngest child misses this opportunity and now bears the burden of paying for his entire education without the benefit of parental support.
While there are a legion of considerations to be mulled over when drafting a will, for the sake of harmony, it is usually better to treat children as equally as possible.
See Kevin Duncan, Be Fair to Your Heirs: Treating Children Fairly in Your Will, Trust and Estate Planning, April, 14, 2017.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.