Parenthood often comes with a tremendous amount of guilt. It seems as though no matter how hard we try, we find something to feel guilty about–something we feel we did wrong along the way. We are also hardwired, it seems, to feel that we must treat each child the same. It is no surprise then that many people approach estate planning with the idea that they must treat each adult child the same. This is potentially a huge estate planning mistake. Treating your children equally may be justified, but equally does not require treating them each the same.
Just as each of your children is an individual, each may have his or her own needs when it comes time to gift assets under your estate plan. One child may be devoted to parenthood and would enjoy that vacation condo near Disney World more than the child who is on the career fast track and could use an education trust to go back for a master’s degree.
By the same token, you have to consider whether each child can handle a gift of cash. If you have a child who has battled a drug addiction, for example, cash may not be a good idea. You can give him or her the same amount that you gift to other children, just use it to fund a trust instead of handing over cash. Likewise, if you have a child who is deeply in debt, create an asset protection trust so that creditors cannot reach the funds instead of handing down cash that will quickly be snatched up by creditors.