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How to be fair in a Will?


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#1 imstrugglin

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 07:39 AM

We have 3 step-children and one child of my own. For school, college, cars, and large dollar items expenses for the step children were split 50-50 with the children's mother. Small dollar items were either paid by their mother or their father and I. We were responsible for insurance, medical bills, and other such expenses 100% and paid child support until the children reached the age of 18 or graduated from college/got married. With our child together we (of course) were responsible for 100% of all expenses.

There is an age difference between the youngest of the step-children and our child of 8 years. Naturally, as a result, expenses for our child for school, college, etc was higher. We have a will that just doesn't fit our current state of affairs. As we have begun discussions of what should be in a new will it has turned into a big question. How to be fair to the children.

One discussion was that since expenses paid to the youngest child were higher and that consideration should be given to what has been given and adjustments made to the other children accordingly. However, another was that the older three received money from their mother that needs to be taken into account since it was not the father's sole responsibility to provide.

Is it fair for the will to be written so that any child's inheritance be "adjusted" for things received so that it will match the amount of another sibling's and all children receive equal amounts? This would mean that any child receiving a larger expense for college (etc) would have a greater reduction in their inheritance. There's got to be a better way. Please help. We live in Mississippi.

#2 Fallen

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 09:39 AM

Your question isn't really one of a legal nature (and I'm not sure why you'd want a stranger's input as to how you divvy up your estate, assuming you leave one).

While I can gather YOU have three stepkids and one with your husband (?), kinda weird to put it with "we have three stepchildren" and then "one child of my own" and then finally saying "with our child together..."

I think your tit-for-tat approach based on X expenses during Y period in life is a bad idea and you may each want to examine what it is you want and allow for the likelihood that you two won't both die at once, how you likely hold the lion's share of assets jointly w/ right of survivorship, what assets you may or may not have left when you die, etc. (best not to presume what you own now is what you will always own, and that your estate won't need to liquidate X to cover Y expense). It may be that you all want to address by way of getting extra life insurance policies for yourselves and leaving that to whom and how you please.

I'll echo PG's advisory "warning" with a twist: (Many) legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here might not fully identify or explain the ramifications of your particular problem. I do not give legal advice as such (and such is impermissible here at any rate). Comments are based on personal knowledge and experience and legal info gleaned over a quarter century, and every state has differing laws on and avenues to address most topics.  If you need legal advice, you need to consult (and pay) a professional so that you may have someone to hold accountable.  Acting on personal and informational advice from a stranger on the internet is a bad idea -- at least not without your own thorough due dilience/research and confirmation as it applies to your situation.  :)


#3 imstrugglin

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 11:30 AM

Fallen, I appreciate your input. You are correct in that we cannot presume to own anything upon death. No one can or should. I can see my inquiry was not understood. Although difficult to explain I won't try again. However, I do consider the drafting of a will and the contents of that document a legal matter.

Thanks again.

#4 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 01:32 PM

To learn more about this topic, you may visit the Estate Planning Center as a good resource.

#5 Tax_Counsel

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 03:17 PM

Is it fair for the will to be written so that any child's inheritance be "adjusted" for things received so that it will match the amount of another sibling's and all children receive equal amounts? This would mean that any child receiving a larger expense for college (etc) would have a greater reduction in their inheritance. There's got to be a better way. Please help. We live in Mississippi.


What is fair, of course, depends on who you ask. People have different perspectives and different values. You could try to do as you suggest above, but I think it’s needlessly complicated to do it that way. It also sends the kids the message that what they get from you is based on what they cost you, the most cost effective kid is rewarded best. In my mind, that’s a message that wouldn't go over very well.

Most of my clients either divide up their estates equally between their kids or give the kids different shares based on what the kids need. A kid who is well off might get less than a kid who is financially struggling, for example.

Each family is different and you’ll have to decide what will work best for your family. For you, doing something less conventional like basing each child’s inheritance on what the child cost you may be the way to go. If so, go for it. You can hear the views of others, but ultimately you want to do what makes you most comfortable. It is, after all, your money and property. Your kids don’t have any particular right to it. You could give what you have all to charity, to a neighbor, or the bum in the alley if that’s what most pleased you. If you care about the kids’ feelings and you do something unconventional, the best way to deal with that is to explain to the kids now why you are making that choice. If they are left to speculate on their own after you die, they may think the worst rather than the best.

#6 harrylime

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 04:53 PM

But, if you do go with the cost accounting thing, remember to allocate overhead equitably between the "products." And don't forget to use inflation- adjusted dollars. :D

#7 Tax_Counsel

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 04:07 PM

But, if you do go with the cost accounting thing, remember to allocate overhead equitably between the "products." And don't forget to use inflation- adjusted dollars. :D


That's exactly the kind of thing that I meant when I said this approach may get “needlessly complicated.” :lol:




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