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Don’t leave your children unequal shares by mistake

If you intend to leave your children equal shares of your estate, don’t forget to consider any money or property held jointly with a child. If you have recently added a child to a bank account, own property jointly with one of your children, or have set up a payable-on-death account with a child as the beneficiary, you might want to revise your will.

Here’s why: Property in a joint account passes outside of your estate. If you add a child to one of your bank accounts, perhaps as a convenience because the child is helping to manage your finances, the account will pass to that child alone when you die. This is true for any property held in joint tenancy, or any property in a payable-on-death account.

If your will says that your estate will be divided equally between your children, then only your other property will be divided equally between them. The child named on the joint account will get all that money or property by himself or herself.

If you don’t intend for that child to receive a bigger share of your estate, you can add a provision in your estate planning documents stating that any property passing to a beneficiary through joint ownership will be treated as an advance on that beneficiary’s share. In that way, all your children will be treated equally.

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