An email from a reader: Two adult children disagree about how an inheritance should be divided. Judy has two children. Joey has none. A number of years ago the parents agreed to pay for private school for Judy's children. Now Joey is contending that the tuition money should be deducted from Judy's inheritance.
In my opinion, since the original agreement to pay the tuition did not specify that the money would be deducted from Judy's share, it would be wrong to do so. Three principles govern inheritances:
- Parents have the right to bequeath their money and goods as they see fit.
- Children should not lobby the parents for a larger share.
- The parents should not use the possibility of an inheritance to bribe or bully their children.
Yesterday Dear Abby had a similar inquiry about whether parents should help their adult children equally or on a need basis. Abby says that any money that is spent to assist a grown child should be deducted from the inheritance. I don't necessarily agree. In my point of view, it is useless to try to keep monetary matters exactly even. In the original case above, the parents almost certainly spent more money on Judy's family. Gifts and treats for the grandchildren add up. Should all that money be totaled up and deducted from the inheritance? What about a family with a whole gaggle of children versus a single-child family? What about the family hit with large medical bills? Keeping up with such spending and trying to achieve equality through adjusting an inheritance is folly, in my opinion. What do you think?
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