Generally, in life, equal is fair. Equal treatment usually means fair treatment. Being treated fairly brings harmony and makes us happy. In my childhood equal treatment was the gold standard that my parents tried to live by. My mother was adamant that she and my dad treat my brothers and me equally. Equal attention, equal punishment, and equal love.
Of course, that was impossible. If you asked my older brother John and me, our younger brother Mark received more of the attention and less of the punishment. Still, we recognized that our parents tried their best.
There were always the exact number of gifts for each of us under the Christmas tree. All birthdays and graduations were celebrated with enthusiasm. We were all given the same educational opportunities. The only time equality lost out was at Halloween. If we collected it (candy), we kept it (eat what you kill, right?).
Even upon my mom’s death, she insisted that her property be divided equally (she had an estate plan). We siblings were independent adults. Dividing things equally seemed easy and fair.
Illinois intestate law agrees with my mother. In Illinois, if parents die without a will or a trust their estate is divided equally among their children. So, if something had happened to Mike and me before we drafted our estate plan, our property would have been divided equally among our four kids; Paul, John, Maureen and Luke.
This seems fair, right? Perhaps, if our kids were all independent adults and had successfully made their way in the world an equal inheritance would be fair. But our kids are not all independent adults. They are still somewhere between childhood and adulthood. While they all make their way to adult success, dividing an inheritance equally would not be fair.
Paul is now a college graduate, John is a college junior, Maureen is a college sophomore and Luke is a high school senior. Even though our kids are close in age, there is still a world of difference in their circumstances.
Paul is a debt free college graduate. He would be able to use his inheritance as he pleased. He could save it, put a down payment on a home, start a business or just travel more. He would have a great deal of financial freedom.
John and Maureen are still making their way through college. College tuition and living expenses would take a big bite out of an inheritance. They would not have the same financial freedom Paul would enjoy.
Poor Luke (literally), would have to pay for all his college tuition and expenses from an inheritance.
Illinois intestate law cannot make allowances for age differences. For good or for bad, the law is blind to extenuating circumstances. Fortunately, our kids do not have to worry about intestate laws. After Mike’s heart attack, we created an estate plan for our family.
We were able to create provisions that considered the age difference in our kids. We created a “pot trust” which delays dividing an inheritance until all the kids finish college. We also created a provision that provides the older kids the ability to borrow against their inheritance. They can pay for grad school, buy a condo, pay for a wedding, etc. This way the older kids could still move forward with their lives while the younger kids continue to make their way into adulthood. Luckily, with an estate plan, we can create fair treatment (and happiness) when the law cannot.
If I have persuaded you and made my case please contact me or another trustworthy attorney to draft your estate plan.