Parenting is a tough job–and it doesn’t end when your children become adults. Tough decisions are still required to be made even after your children reach adulthood, like how to treat them under the terms of your estate plan. As a parent, your first reaction is likely that you will treat them all the same, of course! This is, unfortunately, a common estate planning mistake. None of your children are the same so why must they be treated the same in your estate plan? This does not mean you should treat them in an unequal manner, simply that they do not need to be treated the same.
Positions such as executor or trustee are good examples of why you should not feel compelled to treat all children the same. Not all of your children are likely to have the education, experience, time, and interest required to be the Executor of your Last Will and Testament or Trustee of your Trust. Pick the child who does have all of these requirements. If you are creating a trust, you may be tempted to appoint co-trustees just to be fair. This is rarely a good idea even when the trustees are not siblings. It can lead to confusion and conflict, defeating the trust purposes. In most cases it is best to pick the child who is best qualified to be the trustee.
When it comes time to make provisions for devising your estate assets, you must also consider each child individually. One child may be more capable of handling a direct gift of cash than another. Consider a trust in this situation. More importantly, one child may need specific assets, such as a home, more than cash.
You can be fair when you create your estate plan without feeling as though you must treat each child exactly the same.
The best way to create a comprehensive estate plan that is customized to your personal concerns and goals for your children is to work with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney. Avoid the temptation to cut corners on this important aspect of your future by seeking help from a bargain basement estate planning CD, web site or non-lawyer. Only experienced and qualfied estate planning attorneys will have the skills and take the time to make sure that your plan is crea