Dear Harry: We are having a problem with one of our children (who doesn't?). He is a teacher in a local high school, and he has a salary of about $40,000 a year. A few years back we advanced him the money he needed for a house in a better school district. We firmly oppose mortgages. We are now advancing him money monthly until he is able to get a better-paying position. He has two children now in college. Our daughter, by contrast, is a dentist in Georgia and doing extremely well financially. To make matters even, we told our son that the money advanced would come out of his inheritance when we are gone. Our children do not get along well, at all. We have heard from a friend that our son resents the fact that his inheritance will be compromised. He apparently feels that his sister is well-enough off so that she won't "need" the inheritance. We trust your sound advice. Do you feel that we should treat these advances as a gift or continue as we are. Our estate is well into the millions, but our children think it's much less.
What Harry says: You have caused me to kick this problem around for a couple of weeks. The only conclusion I can come up with may not be satisfactory to you. If you can arrange to discuss this with your daughter (using actual numbers), and get her agreement, you'll have an easy answer. If she refuses, you'll have to determine if it's more important to leave them equal amounts or attempt to equalize their total resources. With an estate as large as yours, my vote is to equalize the inheritance by letting things stand as they are.