DEAR HARRY: My in-laws are considering making wills for the first time. They had this superstition that making a will meant an imminent death. They have a real problem in that he was married to another woman a long time ago. He had three children from that marriage and two more from his current marriage. He was concerned about some of the things he wanted to do, so he spoke to a friend who works in a bank. My husband wanted to be sure about some of what he was told, so I'm writing to you. My father-in-law wants to leave money only to some of his children, but his friend said that he is required to treat all of his children equally. Can he leave them different amounts? Can he be forced to leave each of them something?
WHAT HARRY SAYS: The only person whom he cannot disinherit is his wife. Even that could be avoided by an agreement between them. He may leave the children different amounts or no amounts. Many lawyers prefer to indicate some nominal amount for a child who is disinherited in order to preclude an assertion that this child's disinheritance was not intentional, but an oversight. Remember, when you leave money unequally, it is quite likely to result in squabbles among the children. To avoid this, I know of one case where the children divided the inheritance equally in spite of the will's provisions.