When You Plan Out Your Will, Be Prepared To Play Favorites

Life isn’t fair, and neither is death. When you sit down to plan out your demise, you’ll most likely find yourself picking and choosing among your descendants to give the better stuff to whom you deem to be the most worthy and competent.

My Journey To Millions, a blog penned by a lawyer who handles estate planning, offers a guide to helping you deal with setting up unequal inheritance. The writer talks about a scenario in which parents of three children leave behind a business and life insurance policy, and suggests leaving the chosen one the business while letting the family screw-ups split the life insurance money to equal the cash value of the company.

Discussing such things with family is incredibly difficult and emotionally taxing, but you may find that it’s a good idea to have the tough talks so people know what to expect when you pass away. It’s not recommended that you make your kids compete for your estate by braving a night inside a haunted house.

Unequal Distribution to Heirs [My Journey To Millions]


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  1. Misha says:

    It’s not recommended that you make your kids compete for your estate by braving a night inside a haunted house.
    Oh, I really hope I’m interpreting this reference correctly!

  2. Coffee says:

    Ten percent of nothin’ is, let me do the math here… nothin’ and a nothin’, carry the nothin’…

    • Cat says:

      Exactly. Nothing will be left for the kids.

      In fact, my parents are working hard at spending the meager savings they have and living a lot longer than even they had ever hoped.

      I think they’re doing it out of spite.

      (/s, I don’t care if they spend it all, I’d much rather have them alive. No matter how annoying they are in their old age.)

    • caradrake says:

      We applied the cortical electrodes but were unable to get a neural reaction from either patient.

  3. SporadicBlah says:

    I really don’t care what they do with all my crap when I’m gone. I’m even being cremated so my family wont waste money on pointless burial ritual purchases. Just put me in a mason jar and bury it someplace pretty in the Appalachians.

    • Cat says:

      Some yokel in the Appalachians will just dump out your ashes and use the mason jar for moonshine.

    • FigNinja says:

      It’s still good to do some planning so they won’t be left to sort stuff out and go through expensive probate processes once you’re gone.

      My folks didn’t really stipulate much about the stuff they owned, but they made a family trust and put major assets in it: the house, investment accounts, etc. They also made an advanced directive for health care and appointed one of us to be in charge of healthcare decisions should they not be able to do it themselves. They appointed another of us to be the trustee for financial matters. The sad fact is that you may end up incapacitated and unable to manage your own affairs. You may require nursing care for years before you die. It’s good to have this stuff settled ahead of time.

      This has made dealing with things so much easier. It’s still hard emotionally, but at least everything was straightforward legally. The tough part for my parents was deciding which of their four children should fill each role. (Of course, you don’t necessarily have to have your children do this, especially if they’re young.)

      It’s good for one person to have final say. Sharing the role is difficult. I’m the financial trustee, and while I seek consensus on matters from the family, when it comes down to the final decision it’s just me. No endless fighting. No gridlock. It does mean I’m in the firing line, but my parents knew I could take it.

    • meltingcube says:

      You really should still put something together. When my grandparents on my mother’s side passed away, it turned into a free for all between the siblings due to neither having a will. The process then ended up requiring an estate lawyer to the tune of thousands and many months of work. It was pretty messy and would have all be solved with just a simple will.

  4. Sarek says:

    When I had trouble convincing my mother to spend some money, I used these 2 methods:
    1) “Remember how you scrimped and saved for your old age? I have news for you — IT’S HERE!”
    2) “Are you saving your money for your daughter-in-law’s 2nd husband?”

    As for my will, I’m leaving it all to a home for wayward cats.

    • MyJourneytoMillions says:

      In New York and many other States they actually have Pet Trusts!

    • Downfall says:

      I would have presumed that your Vulcan mother would adopt a more logical approach to personal finance. Fascinating.

  5. Jayrandom says:

    Worthy, sure, but wouldn’t you want to leave your stuff to your less competent descendants? Presumably the competent ones are taking care of themselves.

    • bluline says:

      The less competent ones will simply blow it. My mother-in-law is very concerned about leaving money to her older son as he and his white-trash spouse will just spend it foolishly. Instead, my MIL wants to make my wife a trustee and have her dole out the money to her brother in tiny pieces. And that sucks for my wife because her brother is going to be pestering her constantly for more and more of whatever is left.

      • Not Given says:

        Spendthrift trust but make someone else the trustee, a lawyer or banker, maybe.

      • patty says:

        Your wife could do what a co-worker’s mom did when she found out she got everything. She split it evenly. Basically told her brother(s) I am not following the will, here is how much money there is, and do you want a specific item. Everyone went away happy. While she was not fond of her brother, she also didn’t want to deal with BS the rest of her life. Tell your wife she can do this, and let them fend for themselves once the money is gone.

    • dolemite says:

      Not in my household. I reward the best and punish the worst. Of course it’s just my wife and I and out 5 pets. But you can believe the cats will get NOTHING!

    • Snip says:

      If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this one…. The problem, as others have pointed out, is that the incompetent ones will blow through it too fast for it to be worth anything real and lasting. They might even get themselves into even worse trouble than they were already in if they’re that unrealistic about how far money can go. What you really need to do is make a competent and trustworthy person the executor of the estate. That way you can take care of the incompetents without worrying about them being irresponsible with the money.

  6. chizu says:

    My parents already said it, it depends on whom my brother and I marry, along with… A lot of other things. My parents (from my understanding) are basing it on 1.) the relationship between the siblings 2.) we, how we behave as people 3.) the kind of person we marry.

    When I was with my ex, I knew my parents wouldn’t have approved of him and I was ready to give up whatever they have in order to be with him. And to be honest, even without my ex, I’d rather have my parents enjoy the last bit of money they save up during all these years. I will continue to hold onto that, I’d rather have them spend their money on vacations, trips, stupid things, than trying to save the money for us.

    I had seen too many scenes where things got ugly between family members fighting over what little money someone had left behind. To me, what’s the point? If someone is going to fight you tooth and nail for some money, then that person is someone you can’t trust — that’s someone you don’t want a relationship with. Granted, if my parents are billionaires, things might be different. But it’s still likely for me to just walk away (with whatever amount is given to me) than get involved (again).

    • MyJourneytoMillions says:

      You sound like The Wife, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I too would rather my parents be happy and spend THEIR money, but that isn’t always possible. Everyone could die tomorrow and the plan should at least be in place!

  7. sirwired says:

    Putting the burdens of running (or selling) a business on the child that has been the most responsible seems like you are rewarding bad behavior. The screwups get cold, hard, cash, while the responsible one gets more work. (Which they may not be able to handle if they already have a full-time job.) Putting the livelihood of your employees and the legacy of your business on the head a completely unprepared child, no matter how otherwise responsible, is not a good move.

    Even if the child is already involved in the business and totally responsible, running a business still seems like the short end of the stick compared with cold cash. I’d discount the value of the business somewhat when determining splits.

    Instead, it’s much better to have a succession plan in place at all times… detailing who is going to buy the business from the estate and how the value to be paid for it is to be determined.

    Lastly, I mistrust the advice of any blog that has the word “millions” in the title. (Just like “rich” “wealthy”, etc. As an added bonus, this one even tosses “elite” in there too.) Too hard to find ones with useful advice, vs. the Get Rich Quick Scheme of the Month.

    • quail says:

      I suspect that the ‘golden child’ had been in the business. In the end, getting a good company pays off more in the long run. It will continue to produce income while the insurance money will be gone in no time.

      My only hope is that the couple had business insurance & buy sell agreements in place. Otherwise the business will be an albatross for the ‘golden child’.

    • Not Given says:

      I think I’d ask the child if they wanted the business instead of cash or if they wanted it to be sold so everyone would get the same amount of cash.

    • MyJourneytoMillions says:

      When I first started the blog I used that word Elite since I thought I would be taking the blog in a different direction then I have done over the past 3 years. Its kind of cheesy, I agree. However, the Millions I stand by – since I am not trying to teach anyone how to make millions just chronicling my journey to get there. I have a pretty long time to go LOL.

      To your original Point, the main point of that specific example is that Wills are often written to provide everything equally without taking into the consideration that the Son actually built the business, so to provide his family with an income stream may be exactly what everyone wants. Giving someone hard cash without a way to grow it, in my humble opinion, is not worth nearly the amount of an income stream and possible sale.

    • Snip says:

      You’re underestimating the emotional boost of knowing your parent had that much faith in you. But I agree that the chosen one ought to be asked if he or she wants to be chosen first.

  8. Lethe says:

    My parents have had family meetings where they explained exactly what they wanted. We know who the executors are, how any money will be divided, how much is going to charity, and what to do with physical items. When my grandmother died, her will caused a lot of discord and hurt feelings in my mother’s family, and she’s determined that their will won’t do the same.

    • MyJourneytoMillions says:

      That is VERY responsible of your family, but I will be the first (but not the last) to tell you that is NOT the norm.

  9. ellemdee says:

    Don’t forget to plan for what will happen to your pets. Too many pets get dumped at the pound by relatives who don’t want the dog/cat. They’re often not in the highly adoptable cute widdle puppy category so the chances of them making it out of the pound alive are pretty slim. Even if you don’t have any friends or relatives willing to take your pets, arranging something with a rescue or sanctuary ahead of time and making sure your family knows what you want done will help to put your mind at ease knowing that they will be taken care of.

    • AjariBonten says:

      OR, you could go all Egyptiany/Vikingy and take em with you

    • MyJourneytoMillions says:

      Fantastic point, Elle! In many States you can even leave a certain amount of money behind for their benefit. Of course you still have to get someone else to spend it on them since they lack the opposable thumbs to take it out of their wallet.

    • Snip says:

      You could use a clause to stipulate that the money only comes with stewardship of the pet, but it would probably be a lot nicer for the pet to make sure a friendly person agrees to take it beforeheand.

    • pamelad says:

      Our veterinarian has agreed to take on both of our cats in case my partner and I die or become unable to take care of them. One cat is not adoptable, but the other one is. If we both become unable to look after them, the vet will keep the one as long as he lives and find a home for the adoptable one.

      The vet didn’t even ask before agreeing, but I asked what we could do to help financially if such an unfortunate circumstance occurs.

      One of her other clients granted $1000 of his savings toward medical care for his cat to a potential adoptive parent in case he became unable to take care of his cat. The vet will put this in a special fund for vet care for the cat, which might cover its lifetime vet expenses.

      I think it’s a fantastic idea.

  10. Confoosed says:

    When I did my Will, I had a clause stating that if ANYONE in the Will grumbled/complained, they would automatically be considered ‘Pre-Deceased’, meaning they croked before me! How about that for keeping harmony? :-}

    • MyJourneytoMillions says:

      Its called an in terrorem clause or a no-contest clause! Fantastic except when there may be a legitimate gripe with what is going on. Many States will allow you to still challenge if the Will was executed pursuant to fraud or is an all out forgery…but adds that extra level of complication.

      Very powerful clause.

  11. Confoosed says:

    When I did my Will, I had a clause stating that if ANYONE in the Will grumbled/complained, they would automatically be considered ‘Pre-Deceased’, meaning they croked before me! How about that for keeping harmony? :-}

  12. Bripanov says:

    Are those Carcasonne pieces?

  13. ElleAnn says:

    Inheriting the family business would be my worst nightmare. My parents are incredibly passionate about it, and without that passion I don’t think I could handle the kind of hours they have to work or the sacrifices they’ve made to keep it profitable. My older sister, who made a lot of missteps in her teens and twenties, has turned her life around in the past 10 years. She’s expressed interest in the family business and all I can think is “More power to her!” There are a few knicknacks and some family photographs that I will want when our parents eventually pass away, but right now I think that any money that’s left can stay with my sister so she has a chance of keeping the business running.

    • MyJourneytoMillions says:

      Maybe your Sister and your parents should research the idea of a one-way buy-sell

  14. kataisa says:

    There’s nothing wrong with playing favorites. Some kids need more than others, and some kids have been more loyal and helpful to their aging parents than others who moved hundreds of miles away and never show up to see the family until someone dies.

    And then there are those spoiled brats, freeloaders, and substance abuse addicts who need to be weened from the family bank account, pronto.

    • Cat says:

      I am one of the “others who moved hundreds of miles away and never show up to see the family until someone dies.” Only in my case, try “thousands of miles away”.

      The two siblings I have that didn’t move away were happy to be living in trailer park or halfway house. I had to move, there were no jobs to speak of.

      And then, the economy tanked and airfare spiked. I couldn’t even go home when my brother died. You know, the unemployed one living in a halfway house.

  15. quail says:

    When it comes to the physical items, I’ve seen many older people just start giving the stuff away to relatives. Their logic is that they know the person they want to have it will get it. And they get to enjoy the giving.

    • dolemite says:

      My granny did this for years. Every xmas, she gave away things like old jewelry, decorations, etc. It was like a yard sale. I ended up getting some kind of ceramic cats and a giraffe made out of some kind of metal.

  16. LiveToEat says:

    Love the Carcassonne game pieces!

  17. milehound says:

    In some countries, it is almost impossible to disinherit a direct heir (eg a surviving spouse or child) or significantly reduce his or her share in the estate. In a number of EU countries, an heir can only be disinherited after being convicted of a felony, or after being declared “incompetent to inherit” by 2 independent psychiatrists.

    • MyJourneytoMillions says:

      I am pretty sure (but not positive) that all the States have an Elective Share statute which makes it impossible (or at least VERY hard) to disinherit a Surviving Spouse. But I think there is only one state, Louisiana, that prevents disinheritance of a child – probably because it came out of the French Civil Code.

  18. jerry101 says:


  19. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I don’t need a will. I have nothing that is worth anything. If I die, my family (sister, brother, parents–God forbid I get to make one of my OWN :P) can just pitch everything. Perhaps I ought to pre-pay for 1-800-GOT-JUNK to come clean out my stuff and donate it.

  20. azgirl says:

    When my Gramma passed, the big stuff was accounted for. Her funeral was prepaid, and even clothing picked out.. she was pretty intense on that.. but what she didn’t see coming was the petty crap that went on about the costume jewelry, knick knacks and such.
    Honestly, I have never seen my relatives behave so badly over who got one item or other.