Some people ask us this question as we work with them to develop their estate plan: “Do I have to treat my children the same in my Will?” Or, a variation is, “Do I have to leave the same inheritance to each of my children?” The answer is easy. You don't have to treat your children the same, and in some cases there may be very good reasons not to do so.
It's your money and assets and you can devise a plan that you like with respect to how to leave them behind at your death. A very common arrangement is for a Will to leave all assets to a surviving spouse, and if there is no surviving spouse, then to the children. But how do you split the assets among the children? In equal shares, or through some other way? There is no universal answer, and as always, your situation, circumstances and goals and objectives will be key in formulating an estate plan that meets YOUR needs and wishes.
As discussed in today's short video, there can be good reasons to not treat children the same in a Will, and to not leave assets to them in equal shares. For example, there may have been lifetime gifts to one child, and the parent wishes to count that against the gift recipient child's inheritance to then leave more at death to other children. Or, there may be a child that has a greater financial need for the child and his or her family, and you may determine that he or she needs a larger inheritance than another child without such a great need. Another point to consider includes your desires and expectations as to how you want the assets used. Will one child squander the assets due to an excessive lifestyle or immaturity? If so, you can certainly impose some limitations on how assets are distributed to that child, by way of a trust, for example. For parents of minor aged children, it sometimes makes a lot of sense, in the case where there is no surviving spouse, to pool the assets together to use those to help provide for the children until they are grown and finished their education, whether that is college, tech school or something else, and then divide assets among the children to be shared. This can be done effectively through a trust in a Will.
Because there is no universal standard, or requirement, as to how to develop your estate plan, there are numerous options available to you, provided you actually prepare your estate plan. Taking the time to get your plans in place is key, as without doing that, you're left with the default intestate plan set forth in state law, and that almost certainly doesn't match your wishes 100%. The good news is that estate planning in Georgia is not hard or complicated, and with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, the process is not daunting or overly stressful.
For more information on estate planning in Georgia, or to schedule an appointment for a Family Protection Strategies Session with us, contact us today.
Other related posts of interest:
Survey Shows Most Adults Don't Have a Will or Trust
Estate Planning Overview: Wills in Georgia