Howard & Hardyman LLP

How can I equally distribute my assets to my children?

As an Illinois parent, you want to be fair to each of your children when, upon your death, your assets are distributed to them. But as you draft your will, you find problems with giving your children equal shares of what you have. For instance, you may own a sailing ship but two of your children enjoy boating activities. So how can you give your children an equal share of your boat when you possess just one boat? Sometimes it is not possible to equally distribute all of your assets to your children, which can put you in a troublesome situation.

An article run in U.S. News and World Report recommends that people in this position ask their children for their input. Make a number of things clear to your children when you talk to them. First, point out that a fully equitable distribution of your assets is not possible given what you own. Whether it is a piece of art, a television set, a car, or jewelry, you have to acknowledge that only one child could receive each of these assets.

Secondly, you should ask your children which of your assets they would want to receive upon your death. You may learn that some of your assets are not even desired by one or more of your children. To take the boat example once again, one of your children may already own a boat and does not want yours. Thus it is an easy matter to leave the boat to the other child that enjoys boating.

Still, there may be occasions when two or more children may desire something you own. Do not panic if this happens. This is a good time to discuss the matter and try to solve it. If this conflict goes unresolved, your children may end up fighting over the asset after you pass away, perhaps even taking your will to court. Try to work out an effective compromise. Perhaps one of your children can be persuaded to forgo the asset if that child does not possess a strong interest in it.

A major goal of discussing your assets with your children is to create as much harmony as possible among your family. Even the act of discussing the issue can make your children feel included in the process and reduce any resentment they might have felt if your will did not distribute all of your assets as they wished.

Please be aware that this article is not written to dispense legal advice. It is intended to convey information about estate planning.

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  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • WCBA | Winnebago County | Bar Association | Established 1996
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