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Should I leave the same amount to all of my kids in my will?

One of the more difficult dilemmas for parents when making out their wills is whether or not to leave the same amount of cash and assets to each child. In a perfect world, the answer would be unequivocally, yes.

But we live in reality, which is far from perfect. There can certainly be valid reasons to divide your assets equitably and not equally.

What does that even mean?

Equal distribution of assets is just that. Have two kids? It's a 50-50 split. Got four? Each receives a quarter of your estate.

Equitable distribution means that each beneficiary receives their fare share, based on various circumstances. Consider the following scenario.

You have three children — Bob, Jill and Jack. Bob got an academic scholarship to an Ivy League school, went on to get his MBA and has done quite well in life. He has been self-supporting since his early 20s.

Jill had a few early stumbles, bore an out-of-wedlock child and college wasn't on her horizon. As her parents, you stepped up to the plate to make sure that her child had all the necessities. When Jill settled down at 25 with the man who later became her husband, you paid out $50k to give her the wedding of her dreams.

Then there is your youngest, Jack, who has struggled mightily as a result of living a dissolute life. The arrests, the rehabs and the relapses have cost you a great deal over the years. You're still not even certain that Jack is sober now.

When dividing up your estate, what is equitable might be a better choice than what is equal. Leaving the bulk of the estate to your son Bob is sure to engender hostility among the siblings, though. It could even create a will contest.

Make your intentions crystal clear

You can avoid some of the above by having frank discussions with all of your offspring about your intentions. Explain that the expensive wedding and the bail-outs and rehabs all took a toll on their share of your estate. Then spell that out in the will, if your estate planning attorney finds it prudent.

That is only one of many possible ways to handle estate distribution. Discussing your options fully prior to writing your will may allay some of your concerns.

Source: Investopedia, "Advice on Wills: Should Each Child Get the Same?," Amy Fontinelle |, Dec. 08, 2017

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