Equal gifts made by parents to their kids are not always viewed as fair
Charles was recently interviewed and discussed why equal gifts by parents are not always viewed as fair by their children (full video here).
Equal does not always mean equitable. If there are four siblings and each of them receive an equal share of the estate, one would think that there would be no reason to fight. Nonetheless, there are many situations in which a fight may happen even if the shares are equal.
If one of the children received special treatment during the parent’s lifetime, the others may feel that they should get more in the will.
For example, if one of the siblings was running a business, ran into financial difficulties, and was provided financial assistance by the parent (perhaps $100,000 to help with a home mortgage or the business), the others may view equal shares in a will as unfair. They may feel that each of them should get an extra $100,000.
Another example may be a sibling that had trouble with the law while young and the parents spent tens of thousands of dollars on criminal lawyers and bail. If the parent leaves equal shares, the other children may view that as unfair.
This kind of unequal treatment may cause resentment among the siblings and may even result in litigation. There may be questions about whether the money spent while the parent was alive was meant to be paid back eventually or not.
To avoid this kind of a dispute, the parent may provide further details in the will about any funds paid to any of the siblings while alive.
Equal treatment of a child who provides the majority of an elderly parent’s care may be viewed as unfair
Equal treatment may be considered unfair when one of the siblings has taken on the majority of the parent’s caregiving responsibilities.
If a child undertakes to care for an elderly parent in his or her final years, the amount of time spent may be similar to having a full-time job. The child may even move into the parent’s home.
If all the children are then treated equally under the parent’s will, the beneficiary who provided the care may feel mistreated. There may also be resentment as a result of not being recognized for the efforts and sacrifices made to care for the parent.
When the parent dies, the child may raise the issue of compensation for the care provided with the other siblings. A common response may be that although care was provided, the child got to live rent-free and was not forced to care for the parent and that there should be no compensation.
The efforts of the sibling who took care of the parent are often not recognized by the other siblings.
This is the kind of situation that can result in a bitter estate fight. It is also a very common scenario in both estate litigation and mediation.
Again, to try to avoid a future fight, the parent may want to include provisions in the will dealing with any care received. The will should be clear about whether the child who provided the majority of the care should be compensated..
Careful consideration must be given to the family background when preparing a will and an estate plan. Equal gifts under a will are not always perceived as fair and equitable by the beneficiaries.