Inheritance is a funny thing. People who inherit seem to equate their share with how much they were loved by the deceased.
Most times, how much an heir receives and how much they were loved has absolutely nothing to do with each other. Here are a couple of examples of how a well-intentioned parent can do major violence to the feelings of the child who gets the short end of the stick.
Imagine a family with two children. Both kids are raised, loved and educated equally. One of the kids, however, becomes a successful business person and wealthy. Fate and fortune, however, are not so kind to the other child, who is plagued by illness, unemployment and divorce.
The parents see me to write their wills. Looking at their childrens respective lives, they say something to me like this:
Our rich child has his own money, because life worked out for him and he became rich. He doesnt need our money. We should give most of it to the child that could really use it.
Another example is one that, unfortunately, I see quite a bit: Parents with several children, one of whom has special needs and is receiving a needs-based government benefit. Because the parents know enough about benefits law to understand that the receipt of an inheritance by their special needs child will disqualify that child from receiving further benefits, the parents intentionally disinherit their special needs child.
In both examples, the parents were acting with what they thought were the best of intentions. The children who received less than their siblings, or no inheritance at all, received an entirely different message:
Mom (or dad) didnt love me as much as my siblings (or didnt love me at all).
Ive seen self-made millionaires cry when they learned that their parents didnt remember them in the same way as their siblings. And when you think about it, you can see that one who doesnt receive an equal share of inheritance might feel punished because they did well financially in their life, or punished because they werent as smart or as able as their brothers or sisters.
A will or a trust may be the last words which your kids receive from you. Regardless of what YOU intend, your beneficiaries are going to equate inheritance with love.
We all know that love is not money. Certainly you can leave whatever you want to whomever you want, but before you do, please take a moment and think about how your children might view what you leave them, because, as Ive said,
Inheritance is a funny thing.
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