“Equitable is not always equal,” says Mark Dellinger of the Roanoke law firm of Rhodes, Butler & Dellinger, which specializes in family law. “People attach love to inheritance but sometimes one child makes a much great contribution to the life of the parent in the years close to the time of the parent’s death.
“The parent may love the child who lives in Kansas City and sees the parent one time a year the same as the child who lives down the street. However, the time and attention the child living in town dwarfs that provided by the out-of-town child. Should the child in town inherit more? … If a parent is going to leave less in a will or trust to one child than another, I advise clients to write a letter to the child who is receiving less explaining why…and reiterating that it has nothing to do with love.”
The will is crucial. “There is a growing consumerism attached to wills and powers of attorney,” says Dellinger. “Non-lawyers want to make a profit and so they offer ‘products’ at a cheaper rate than what the lawyer’s price may be.” Most often, says Dellinger, you get what you pay for.
Indecision and suspicion are important stressors, Dellinger says. A well-advised parent is prepared to tell her children what she would like to see happen prior to the events that cause the stress,” he says.
“I think the families most likely to have legal difficulties are those that do not take the time to think through the ‘what ifs,'” Dellinger stresses. “…It is not fun to sit around considering your death or incapacity. However, it is a gift to those serving under a power of attorney or handling an estate.”