My Grandparents are doing their estate planning. They have two children, one of whom has two kids and the other four. They are having a hard time deciding if they should split assets evenly between the families or evenly between the individuals.
Evenly between the individuals would seem to favor one side of the family over another, evenly between the two families would favor the individuals of the smaller family and creates a disparity between their children. Is there any biblical guidance to help think through this situation?
You may have noticed that we often ask questions as part of our Ask the Rabbi answers. Here is our question for you: Have your grandparents asked for your input? If the answer is no, then we suggest that you read no further. Not much in life is as unwelcome as unsolicited advice.
However, if your grandparents had asked us this question, this is how we would have started our response.
- Cain and Abel
- Isaac and Ishmael
- Jacob and Esau
- Joseph and his brothers
Sadly, it is extremely common for inheritance issues to split families apart. No matter what the reasoning, in the emotional aftermath of losing parents money issues become inseparable from emotional ones. Dormant rivalries and hurt feelings that go back decades move front and center. So, we firmly advise that assets be split equally among children. The money one leaves is unimportant compared to the relationship between one’s children. (The Biblical mandate for the eldest to receive double is part of an entire structure of laws that pertain to very few people today.) Peace and love among their descendants are of utmost importance to your grandparents.
Having said that, your grandparents might very well choose, while they are alive, to set up a trust fund for each grandchild or set aside a gift for each one. Each of the six grandchildren would receive the same amount. While this may reduce the assets left to their children, it is an entirely different matter from leaving unequal assets.
We would strongly encourage your grandparents to leave a moral and ethical will (written or oral) for all their descendants. Money is transient, but letting you know their values, their dreams for your futures and the cornerstones of their lives is something that you can pass down to your children and grandchildren as well.
We wish you and your grandparents many healthy and happy years together,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin