As a parent you undoubtedly have tried all of your life to treat all of your children the same. Why then would you do anything different when you create your estate plan? Shouldn’t you divide your estate equally among your children? Or are there circumstances under which it would be wise not to divide your estate equally? If you are currently wrestling with these questions know that you are not alone. Many parents have been in the same position you are in, and have struggled with the same questions and concerns. Only an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney can discuss the unique facts and circumstances in which you find yourself to help you make a final decision; however, it may help for the moment to know how others have handled similar situations.
When your children were young, estate planning was probably much easier. As minors, your children could not inherit directly from your estate. Therefore, you likely did one of two things – left everything to a spouse/other parent or arranged for all your estate assets to go into a trust for their equal benefit in the event of your death. Neither of those options required you to decide if your children should inherit equally from your estate. Now that your children are adults, however, you are faced with deciding whether or not to leave them equal shares of your estate.
Sometimes the decision is easy, if none of your children have any issues or circumstances that you envision creating a problem. You may just leave the estate in equal shares to your children. What should you do, however, if you have reason to believe that any inheritance you leave to one of your children will be squandered, lost, or otherwise wasted? For example, if you have a child who has struggled with drug/alcohol addiction or who cannot seem to stay away from the casinos? Any inheritance left to him/her could be lost to addiction. Or what if your child is in the middle of, or contemplating, a potentially nasty and bitter divorce? The inheritance you leave him/her could end up in the hands of the soon-to-be ex-spouse! Finally, you might have a son/daughter who simply is not good with money. He/she might already have filed bankruptcy or might consistently be dodging creditors. In any of these scenarios your hard-earned assets could be lost in a matter of months after your death.
Deciding not to leave your estate in equal shares is one potential solution. Creating a trust may be a better another one. With a trust in place you are able to leave an equal share to each child; however, the Trustee of the trust will oversee the distribution of the assets. While the assets are in the trust they are safe from creditors and spouses. In addition, the Trustee can hold back on a distribution if circumstances warrant doing so.
If you have additional questions or concerns about how to divide your estate among your children, or about your Illinois estate plan in general, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.