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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Well, that didn't work

This new blog post from talks about the challenges of the very rich when trying to hand down large legacies without sparking family fights. The failures are often spectacular and make the headlines. Click here to read the article.

The author, Elaine Blades, touches on a concept that is very important in estate planning. That concept is that the children equate equal treatment under the will as meaning the parents loved them equally. Money equals love when it comes to wills and estates.

You might be surprised to know how much planning, discussing and special drafting go into making sure that in a parent's will, the children don't believe themselves to be less loved than a sibling. This doesn't only apply to rich people; the same concept applies where an estate is more modest.

I don't believe this forces a parent to leave equal amounts to all of the children where, for example, the parent has already helped one child financially. In those cases, I often recommend to clients that they have a clause in their will giving a brief explanation for the different treatment (e.g. "Johnny is getting less than the others because I gave him a down payment for a house that I didn't give to the other children"). Including this explanation should help ensure that Johnny's feelings aren't hurt.

I've noticed that when this type of clause is used, many clients prefer the wording to start with "...I love my children equally but have treated them differently under this will because...". That certainly spells things out.

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