College Cost and Your Child’s Inheritance

College Fund

written by Bay Area estate planning attorney Carmen Rosas.

Question: Our younger son attended a state college  and our older daughter, an ivy league school that cost far more. We want to take into account the difference in the expense as we decide what to leave our sons in their inheritance. How do we do this?

Answer: It’s your decision on how you distribute, and your will or trust can be structured accordingly. However, have you thought through your approach?

Most parents raise children out of a common pot, providing for each one’s unique needs from the same account. Comparing the costs of raising them is a slippery slope.

Does one get more because she did not require braces? The other less because he failed math, took a summer course and could not work a summer job?

I question the wisdom of adjusting inheritances based on uncontrollable childhood circumstances and youthful choices. Also, it could create animosity between siblings.

It’s another matter to base unequal inheritances on what you’ve given them in their adult years. Children tend to understand and respect that approach. For example, if you gave one a sizable down payment to purchase a home, you may want to deduct that from his inheritance.

Whatever you decide, make sure you consider the impact on the relationship of your children and grandchildren after you pass away.