Most Moms and Dads, being kind and generous, leave all, or most, of their physical assets to their children; pro-rata, share and share alike. They also usually leave a profound desire that the children get along with one another and be happy siblings. But this latter expectation, more often than not, turns out to be a fairly-tale.
Why? Because, while the children may get equal assets, they are not equals in temperament, education, earning power, smarts, life experiences, business acumen and financial needs nor do they have the same views about fairness. And, another likely thing, the children probably have been disproportionate contributors, during their parents lives, to their peace of mind, security and physical well-being. Parents’ perceptions about fairness and equity usually differ quite markedly from those of their children.
The inability of parents to see the fundamental differences, needs and expectations among their children and account for them is a fundamental flaw in most estate plans. This leads, at best, to later unhappiness, resentment and alienation between the children or, at worst, wholesale litigation involving the estate and/or siblings.
Some parents do recognize that they should provide differently for one child versus another but cannot come to grips with having a discussion about that with the children before they pass away. In a sense they find it too hard to face their children and solve these problems directly with them while alive and so “kick the can down the road.” Parents’ duties as such never end, even when they are old and their children are adults with spouses and families of their own. Parents should not take the easy road out, they do owe that to their children.