Avoid the Drama, Spill the Tea on Your Will

Why you Should Inform Your Heirs of the Content of Your Will

Clients may request an uneven distribution of assets while working on a will. They could give a lot of money to one relative and cause anger among the others. Consequently, the adviser is in a difficult position. Financial advisors may advise clients to reconsider an unfair estate distribution if they fear it may cause strife within the family. But if they are overly insistent, they may upset a customer with strong opinions about the best way to spend their money.

Certified financial planner Leslie T. Beck of Rutherford, New Jersey’s Compass Wealth Management, said that the firm often advises customers to forewarn their children about their plans. It’s common for well-off parents to wish to help a less fortunate kid financially. It’s OK with me if that happens. However, they will need to explain it to the whole family. They won’t understand if you die before they do.

Advisors would like not to have to take sides. However, in certain instances, they may assist families in finding a compromise that will work for everyone involved. Beck uses the scenario of an elderly couple making their last will and testament. A large portion of the father’s wealth went to his second son (with his second and current wife), which hurt his firstborn child with his first marriage.

Beck said the job was to help the client and his second wife. We suggested they tell their kids what they wanted in life, and we were there to help mend fences amongst relatives and ensure that they had a voice in the disposition of their assets.

The second wife did not want her husband’s firstborn son to wallow in resentment. So she devised a plan, changing her will so the firstborn son would get her apartment.

Some parents, of course, would rather ignore their child’s injured emotions than try to make amends. Neglecting to resolve an old grudge might result in court action or the breakdown of relationships. People make these uneven inheritances when they worry over how one child overspends his money, or another has a drug problem.

Certified financial planner Ed Gjertsen II of Engage Wealth Group in Northfield, Illinois, stated that so many difficulties come up that have nothing to do with money.

In the same way that Beck has found it challenging to manage an uneven distribution of assets, Gjertsen has discovered that it is much more complicated in mixed families. The likelihood of a family feud breaking out between heirs increases when the parents have remarried twice or more.

Gjertsen takes the time to learn about his customers’ motivations during will consultations. The more he knows about their thinking behind the unequal distribution of assets, the better he will be able to provide alternatives.

The client’s reasoning is important to us, he said. That which is equal is not always fair, and that which is uneven is not always unjust. The client’s motivation for this request is all we need to know. In light of their response, we can impart some of our knowledge. Ultimately, if you are not splitting your estates equally, you should tell your heirs otherwise; resentment and anger among your heirs may cause irreparable damage.