Splitting Your Estate Evenly Among the Kids Might Not Be an Excellent Idea

By  //  September 7, 2022

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One of the most difficult tasks a seemingly healthy adult faces is planning for their inevitable death. That’s because planning for dying is an emotional chore that reminds you of your mortality and that you might not have many more summers to enjoy. 

Still, suppose you possess significant money, property (real and/or intellectual), assets, and more. In that case, you need to contact a reputable estate planning lawyer so that the state/government isn’t able to lay claim to a large portion of your property after you die. 

This is especially important when there are surviving children involved. Most people are under the impression that you simply divide your estate evenly among them and be done with it. But financial and legal experts agree that’s not always the best idea. 

According to a recent business report, the issue of estates and surviving children is best exemplified by an old episode of The Twilight Zone. In the 1964 episode, a collection of sobbing siblings are waiting for their wealthy father to die so they can inherit his money.

But deep down inside, they’re happy about the old man’s passing since they are about to be rich, and the dying man knows it. That’s why, as a last gesture, he asks his family to put on masks that will leave a permanent mark on their faces. The marks are that of greed and envy.  

While The Twilight Zone was a fictional program, it touched on what’s considered a far too common predicament most financial advisors and estate lawyers confront. When creating their will, some clients will make it hard to distribute their assets and money unequally.

The client may bequeath one of his or her heirs to receive a larger sum than all the others. This, naturally, will stoke the flames of resentment in the other siblings. 

The advisor will find him or herself in a difficult position. Financial advisors might urge the client to reconsider an unequal distribution of wealth, warning of potential infighting among the surviving family members.

But pushing their client too forcefully on the subject might lead to the firing of said financial advisor. An advisor advises, and he doesn’t dictate.  

Unequal Distributions 

Says a certified financial planner, planning your estate is like cooking “witches brew.” It’s a best practice to tell the children in advance what the parent or parents intend to do with their estate upon their death. 

Sometimes, for instance, parents want to give a less-advantaged child more. This is fine, but it must be explained while the parents are still alive since it’s impossible to explain their decision once they’re dead. 

Getting Caught in the Middle

Simply said, financial advisors, do not wish to get “caught in the middle.” But some advisors will find that they can devise a solution that will please everyone.

For example, recently, an elderly man left most of their estate to his second son, who was born to his second wife, and this made his first son, who was born to his first wife, angry.  

The financial advisor’s role was to work closely with the elderly client and his second wife, encouraging the man to reveal his wishes to both sons prior to his death. At the same time, the advisor wanted to protect the client’s right to do what he wanted with his own money. 

In the end, the second wife was not pleased seeing the first son upset. Therefore, she came up with a solution. She would change her own will so that the first son would inherit her apartment upon death. 

Broken Family Ties and Blended Families

There are always going to be parents who refuse to make an effort to address a child’s upset feelings. This results in a “lingering bitterness” that results in broken family ties and, all too often, litigation. 

Experts also point out that some estate issues have little to do with money. The navigation of unequal distribution of assets becomes all the more difficult with blended families. Second or even third marriages present the possibility of further conflict among surviving heirs. 

When working with clients of their will, some advisors will try to understand why they are making unequal decisions. If an advisor can comprehend the unequal distribution of assets fully, they can then suggest educated alternative solutions that will keep a family unbroken.  

Says one financial expert, equal distribution of an estate doesn’t always mean fair, and an unequal distribution doesn’t always equate to unfairness. It understands the reasoning behind the parent’s decision, allowing them to better explain the logic to the surviving children.