Equitable vs. Equal Distributions

Updated: Nov 18, 2018

Although we presumably love our children equally that doesn't mean distributing our assets equally is necessarily the way to go.

When deciding how to divide and distribute assets, it is important to consider the present and probable future needs of your children as well as what you may have previously provided to each child.

A properly prepared estate plan will have clear instructions and provisions to handle previously made gifts and loans. For example, was the money you gave to your daughter last year to help with the down payment on her house a gift or a loan? If it was a gift, should it be considered an advancement against her inheritance? If it was a loan, should it be forgiven at your death or should it be repaid? There is no one size fits all answer, but whatever you decide it needs to be addressed in your estate plan so as to avoid disagreements amongst your family.

If one or more of your children are prospering while another is struggling or dealing with a disability, or has a child themselves with a disability, you may want to provide a bit more for that child, not because you love that child any more, but because you recognize an added need in that child. After all, isn't that the way we raised our kids when they're young? If one child needed an operation, we paid for it without trying to balance the scale for the other child by giving the other child an amount equal to the cost of the operation. We recognized that we give our kids what they need and if one child has a larger need then so be it.

The existence of a family business can sometimes present unique and difficult considerations, especially if some of the kids work in the business and some do not. Issues relating to whether the business should be sold and fairly compensating those who worked or sacrificed in the business can be challenging. This is where collaborating with financial planers and life insurance agents can be very helpful.

Richard A. Selinger

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