Including troubled children in your estate plan is not impossible.
There is no such thing as a “perfect” family.
In fact, going way way back to the very first family, the older brother killed his younger brother.
Not a good start.
Fratricide aside, not all family flaws will have no impact on your estate plan.
Others should be discussed with an experienced estate planning attorney.
According to a recent Kiplinger article titled “Estate Planning for ‘Black Sheep’ Beneficiaries,” you will need to take an honest and careful look at your family dynamics.
Who may qualify as troubled children?
Those who are married to an unpleasant spouse.
Children who squander education or income on addictions or wastrel habits.
Those who carry excessive debt and struggle with financial management.
What can you do if you have troubled children?
You have several options available.
Divide your inheritance unequally.
In Kansas and in Missouri, your children are not “entitled” to a share in your estate.
If you have supported a child more while you are alive, you may choose to leave them less when you die.
If one child is successful while another has special needs, the child with special needs may benefit more from financial gifting.
A supplemental needs trust may be a wise option to provide for a children with disabilities so they do not lose government benefits.
If you have an untrustworthy child, you can choose to disinherit him or her completely.
If you do no prefer this extreme, you can also use as trust to protect the inheritance both from and for your troubled child.
If you choose unequal distributions, ask your estate planning attorney how much you should share about this with your family.
Explaining your wishes and the reasons behind them can minimize the odds of triggering a family conflict when you die.
Make changes to your estate plan.
Unless you create a lifetime irrevocable trust without powers of appointment, your estate plan is only set in stone when you die.
If you are still alive, you can make changes.
It is advisable to review your estate plan every two years.
If your troubled children turn their lives around for the better, you can always choose to adjust your distributions.
Include incentives in your estate plan.
With a trust, you can encourage certain behaviors and discourage others.
I call it providing “carrots and sticks” to encourage your loved ones.
With such “incentive trust” planning you can provide funds after certain goals are met.
These can include completing a rehabilitation program, retaining employment, or finishing school.
If you do not want to “rule from the grave” indefinitely, you can also “stagger” distributions at various ages and fractional shares so your heirs can develop fiscal responsibility before receiving a windfall inheritance.
Utilize a trust in your plan.
Trusts are not only for the millionaires of the world.
They can be helpful in providing for children with special needs, minimizing tax burdens, and efficiently distributing assets to heirs.
They can also protect your troubled children from the consequences of having money and making poor decisions.
Schedule an appointment to create an estate plan to best meet your goals and the specific needs of your family.
Reference: Kiplinger (Dec. 8, 2020) “Estate Planning for ‘Black Sheep’ Beneficiaries”