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Multiple children, different goals: estate planning considerations

Many loving parents in Massachusetts and across the country who are fortunate enough to be financially sound might be mutually inclined to agree that it might be a good thing if their adult kids were virtual clones.

That is said tongue in check, of course, but actually does make a bit of off-the-wall sense from a financial planning perspective.

After all, angst over giving would never attach because one child seems to need money or related help less -- or more -- than the other kids. No child would have values or life goals that materially divided him or her from other siblings and made it hard as a parent to provide for. A giver's thoughts would never have to entertain a reality of one child being routinely thoughtful and helpful while another son or daughter has seemingly turned his or her back on the family over the years.

In real life, children are different, of course, cultivating values and adopting lifestyles that make intuitive -- and unique -- sense to them as adults. Although the variance can sometimes make it a task for parents with financial means to engage in meaningful estate planning for their offspring, it can also spell a bracing opportunity for mom and dad to honor family differences.

National financial columnist and author Liz Weston underscores in a recent article the difficulty that many parents have in trying to provide fairly for all their children. She especially notes the, "How to divvy up your wealth when you don't agree with one offspring's life choices?" question.

Although there is no boilerplate answer for that, obviously, Weston does stress the opportunity available for being creative and fair.

Central to her advice is the recommendation for parents with questions to consult with their estate planning attorney on issues relating to legacy, disbursements, gift-tax implications and related matters.

And if you don't have a proven legal professional in your corner, she says, "get one."

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