The estate planning process is not intended to be cruel and unusual punishment, even if sometimes it might feel that way. Individuals must grapple with difficult-to-face issues, such as their own deaths, how to fairly distribute their assets among heirs and a whole host of other perplexing issues.
At the end of the day though, one might argue that the most important aspect of estate planning is the fact that a well-planned estate can preserve the cohesive and loving bond that one has helped to maintain among children and relatives during the course of one's life.
How to Give One Child More Money Than the Other
When looking at estate planning through the lens of preventing future conflict among siblings and other heirs and beneficiaries, estate planners may wish to take into account some important factors.
First, should funds be distributed equally to children or would an unequal distribution be more appropriate? Some parents might feel, for example, that a daughter with three children who is struggling to make financial ends meet could use the money more than a wealthy bachelor son with no children to his name.
Nevertheless, it could spurn resentment, even legal battles and family rivalries that can never be resolved after one is no longer available to keep the peace.
Before dividing one's assets in an unequal manner, estate planners may therefore wish to broach the subject with their children. If resistance is encountered, then a different tactic may be more advisable. For example, a parent could gift money to the needy child in advance of the parent's death, which would be helpful to him or her now and allow for an equal split of assets in wills and estate paperwork.
How Loans Given to Children Can Cause Future Problems
Another common but important issue relates to loans -- particularly if they were sizable loans made to one particular child that were never paid back.
If the other children are aware of these loans, they may feel like the loan recipient should receive less money in the will. Children might even try to engage in legal battles as a result. One way to resolve a problem like this would be to announce to all the children that the loans of that child will be forgiven, and to gift all other children the same amount that was given to the first child. Still, this strategy may not be financially feasible for everyone, so estate planners may wish to account for that loan in the process of deciding how one's estate shall be divided among heirs.
Estate planning can be a complicated process, but with an intelligent eye for future possibility and an expert understanding of the law, most future problems can be circumvented and resolved in order to preserve the future cohesiveness and love bonds among one's relatives.
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