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Creating parity between siblings within estate planning

For many New Jersey parents, treating each of their children fairly and equally is something of a balancing act. The same can be true within estate planning, when parents must consider the long-term financial needs of their children when making decisions concerning inheritance. It can be tempting to leave each child a different amount, to reflect their individual financial circumstances and their earning and/or saving abilities. Doing so can lead to problems, however, and is best avoided.

The main reason to divide inheritance assets equally among all surviving children is to maintain a good relationship between siblings. After a parent's death, many brothers and sisters will turn to each other for comfort and support. Finding out that one will inherit more than another can lead to a rift that can take decades to heal.

In some cases it is appropriate to leave differing amounts to each child. An example might be a case in which one child returns home to care for a sick or aging parent. When a child sets aside his or her own goals and desires to help care for a loved one, it can be argued that they deserve a greater portion of the eventual inheritance. In such a scenario, the best course of action would be to sit down with one's children and make the arrangement known to all involved. This can offset the chance of any resentment when the time comes to receive those assets.

When working through the estate planning process, the best way to avoid any future tensions is to involve one's family in the process. In most cases, it is best to leave an equal amount to each child. However, there are circumstances in which adjustments should be made. When everyone involved is aware of the details of a New Jersey parent's estate plan and the reasoning behind those decisions.

Source: Rapid City Journal, "KAHLER: Treat children equally, in life and estate planning", Rick Kahler, April 13, 2014

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