Fair wills help avoid resentment during a difficult time
May 16, 2019
They fight. And sometimes they fight big time.
Battles can ignite instantly if assets are distributed unfairly, even if there is a perception of unfair distribution.
Making a will is about respecting family values and fairness. It’s not just a simple matter of dividing assets.
My advice is to be fair. Anticipate family tensions that might arise after you’re gone and communicate openly to all your children about your wishes and the logic behind your reasoning. Surprises for beneficiaries can cause resentment and anger.
There are philosophic decisions to make when deciding how to distribute your assets. Should the money be distributed equally among your adult children?
Should you distribute funds based on financial need? Does a wealthy child deserve the same amount as a sibling who is financially disadvantaged?
Should you include grandchildren in your will? Is each grandchild treated equally? For example: if you have six grandchildren, they each get the same amount.
Alternatively, you could divide the grandchildren’s amount by each of your own children. If your adult children have a different number of children then some adult children will get more or less because of that.
Then there are assets that have emotional attachment. An example is the family home or cottage.
A lawyer specializing in estate litigation once told me the best advice would be to sell family real estate, because leaving it for children to fight over is a formula for disaster.
People fight about different things. Some of the biggest fights are over money or assets that have a special significance.
If you have financial success during your lifetime you are in the enviable position to provide financial assistance to your children when you are gone. What a shame it would be for your success and generosity to destroy the family.
Another lawyer who has experience with Family Law and Estates told me the biggest fights by far have to do with estates. Not divorce.
Your will is an important family document. Far more important than just distributing assets.