If all your children had the same personality, parenting would be much easier. Whenever you figured out what was best for one, it would automatically be best for the others. However, as any parent of more than one child can tell you, each child has his or her own personality and his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, the one size fits all approach to parenting doesn’t work very well.
Even though we acknowledge that we don’t take the same path with each child, the end result for many parents is the same – treat our children fairly. But since our children are all different from each other, fairly doesn’t always mean equally. One child may be thrilled to have more clothes while the other appreciates more art supplies. Since we have figured out how to treat our children differently, yet fairly in life, why do we cling to the belief that we have no choice but to treat them exactly the same in our estate plans?
One child may lack financial skills so you decide to put that child’s inheritance in a trust to be managed for him or her by someone with good financial skills. That is a great idea for that child. However, things sometimes go awry because parents think that now means the inheritances for all their children should be put in trusts being managed by others because we can’t treat one child differently (even if it makes sense and is best for that child). Instead of being thrilled that the trust will help the child resist the temptation to blow their inheritance, parents instead focus on the belief that the child will have his or her feelings hurt and be upset because their inheritance is in a different type of package than their siblings’ inheritance.
It is ok to treat your children fairly, but unequally as beneficiaries under your will. Rather than try to fit them all into the same one size fits all inheritance plan, embrace the opportunity to one last time show an appreciation for what makes them each unique individuals.