As your children grew, you may have marveled at how differently their personalities and interests developed. As much as you wanted to treat them all the same, you soon found this was not possible. Certainly, you loved them equally, but some needed constant reassurance and others were more independent.
Now that you are planning your estate, you see how those differences may affect your choices. You hope your plan will be as fair as possible, but the last thing you want is to be the cause of contention and rifts among your children.
Planning to avoid a fight
You know how you feel about your children, but your estate plan may say differently. Not that you intend to, but your children may interpret any inequities in your plan as a statement about your love for them. This is why many estate planning advisors recommend that you are straightforward and open about the reasons for your decisions.
To maintain peace, advisors say the best idea is to tell your children about your will and other documents, explain your thought process, and allow them to ask questions or express concerns. In fact, one of the most common mistakes parents make regarding their estate plans is to leave it as a surprise for after they are gone. While you are still around to clear up any confusion among your children is the best time to reveal your estate plan.
Be clear about your intentions
Your estate plan is likely something you labored over. Perhaps your anxiety was rooted in the way you feared your children would receive the details of your decisions. Here are a few ways to minimize conflict over your estate plan:
- Explain the reasons for your choice of estate executor.
- Clarify whether money you previously gave to a child was a gift or a loan that the child must repay to the estate.
- Ask your children if there are items of sentimental value, such as pieces of jewelry, they would like to inherit.
- Divide your assets evenly.
Many advisors urge parents to split their estates evenly among the children and not according to their needs. Inequitable asset distribution may appear to be a punishment to those children who are more successful. If you have a child who is reckless with money or for whom an inheritance may be a danger, consider putting his or her share into a trust. Your attorney can assist you in developing a plan that is most suited to your family dynamic.