Dilemma: My well-off sons feel I've penalised them for their success in my Will

Dawn French / 14 February 2020

A reader asks Dawn French's advice on how to best split her sons' inheritance



Dilemma: I don't know how to best split my sons' inheritance, given their differing situations

I have three sons, two of whom are incredibly successful. The third one struggles financially. I’d like to leave more to him in my will as I worry about his future, but when I mooted this, my well-off sons were very upset and said they felt penalised for working hard, and as though I didn’t love them as much.

How can I get them to understand that this is purely a pragmatic decision?

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Dawn French's advice

This reminds me so much of that wonderful cartoon image, showing the difference between equality and equity.  In the equality image, a tall man, a medium-height man and a short man are trying to see over a fence (which symbolises life, I guess). All three are standing on crates of equal height. Seems fair but the tall man can easily see, the mid-height man can just see and the short guy can’t see at all! 

In the equity image, the tall chap is standing on the ground and can see over; the mid-height bloke is on one crate and can see over; and the short guy is on two crates… and can see over. Same number of crates, just organised differently; a much fairer way to help out, I think.  

So, in other words, arrange a casual meeting with your two ‘well-off’ sons and have an honest conversation with them, explaining that this is your choice (and dying wish, after all) and that you firmly believe this is the right thing to do.

Clarify that it has nothing to do with penalising hard work. On the contrary, you are massively proud of all they have both achieved and their success and independence gives you great joy. Explain that this is an act of love, that you have agonised over it, carefully and lovingly considering all of your sons’ individual needs.

Remind them that a good family helps each other out and that you are proud to have raised a good family.

Of course, if that doesn’t work, knock their heads together until they pass out, or threaten them with the option that you will assign all of the money to a charity that rehomes guinea pigs.

 


 


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