For a parent, estate planning can require some difficult decisions to be made. This is particularly true if you are the parent of adult children because you must decide how you divide your estate among your children. Do you simply split the estate evenly without regard to any additional factors worth considering or do you consider those factors and split the estate unevenly among your children? There is no “right” or “wrong” answer, nor is there a simple way to make your decision. If you find yourself unsure how to proceed, consulting with a St. Louis estate planning attorney will help.
Estate Planning with Minor Children
Estate planning for the parents of minor children is often much easier than for parents with adult children. One reason for this is that when you have minor children your options are somewhat limited because a minor cannot inherit directly from your estate. With that in mind, you will likely do what most parents do which is to establish a trust. The trust then holds your estate assets until your children reach the age of majority and are able to inherit those assets directly. In the meantime, the terms of the trust will determine how and when the assets are used. If assets remain in the trust when the last child reaches adulthood, they can be distributed to your children or you can direct that they remain in trust longer.
Estate Planning with Adult Children
If you children are already adults, you will need to decide how you wish to divide your estate. It is possible to keep the assets in a trust even if your children are adults; however, if you prefer to gift some, or all, of your assets to your children immediately upon your death you will need to decide how you wish to do that.
Is an Even Split Necessary? Is It Wise?
Here are very few “rules” when it comes to creating your estate plan. On the contrary, estate planning is a highly personalized endeavor that should reflect your unique hopes and wishes. As such, there is no requirement that you split your estate evenly among your children. In fact, there is often a valid reason not to do so. Some common reasons why parents decide against an even split include:
- Individual needs – you might have an older child who has already made his/her own fortune whereas our youngest child has yet to finish college. Given that you would have financed your youngest child’s edition and likely given him/her a financial head start on life, as you did for your oldest child, it would only make sense to gift more to your youngest child.
- Addiction issues – now is not the time to sweep problems, such as an addiction, under the carpet. If you have a child who is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, a gambling problem, or any other similar issue, it would not be wise to leave that child a lump sum of money.
- Spendthrift – a similar analysis applies if you have a child who simply is not good with money. Leaving a lump sum to a spendthrift beneficiary is akin to throwing the money away.
- Spousal risk – is one of your children married to someone you don’t trust? This isn’t about liking or not liking a spouse; however, if you have true concerns about the spouse it may not be a good idea to leave a large sum of money and/or valuable assets to that child.
What Options Do You Have?
Ultimately, whether or not you decide to split up your estate assets evenly among your children or not is a decision only you can make after consulting with your Missouri estate planning attorney. If you are concerned that dividing your estate evenly is problematic, for one reason or another, you might consider going ahead and doing so but putting one (or more) child’s inheritance into a trust. Using a trust ensures that a Trustee, of your choice, will manage and oversee the asset you leave behind, significantly decreasing the chance that the assets will be squandered or used for questionable purposes.
If you have additional questions or concerns about your estate plan, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.