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What if you want to give one child more than another?

There are many reasons you might want to leave more assets to one child than to another in your will. One child might have a greater need, or have been more loyal over the years, or have gone out of his or her way to be a caretaker.

Of course, you can simply leave your children different amounts in your will. But doing so is a dramatic statement and can often lead to jealousy and resentment within the family. Keep in mind that it’s usually possible to leave your children equal amounts in your will, but still favor a particular child in other, more subtle ways. For instance:

  • You can quietly make lifetime gifts to one child but not others. Currently, you can give a child up to $13,000 a year without triggering gift tax consequences. You can also give $13,000 to the child’s spouse and to each grandchild.
  • You can also help a child by paying your grandchildren’s tuition. As long as you pay the school directly and don’t give the money to your child, you can contribute as much as you want without triggering the gift tax – and you can still make $13,000 gifts each year to your child and to his or her family members. This is true not only for college, but also for graduate school and even for private day schools.
  • You can purchase a life insurance policy with one child as the beneficiary.
  • You can specify that one child will get certain valuable items of personal property (such as jewelry) to which they have a sentimental attachment.

Some parents are reluctant to leave money to a child because they fear it could be lost to an addiction, a greedy spouse, or a creditor. In such cases, you can often protect a gift to a child by putting the money into a trust that will last for the child’s lifetime.

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