A lot of times when I’m meeting with clients they will ask me “how should we leave our stuff?” They have children, grandchildren, siblings, parents, nieces, nephews, charities they like to support and they are having trouble figuring out what to leave to whom.

Obviously, I can’t answer it for them so I give the annoyingly lawyer-like answer of “it’s completely up to you.” But since I know that they need guidance, I then tell them what other people have done. That usually helps them get a little closer to their answer because they can see that it really is completely up to them, and that the way they may have had in mind is “normal.”

So, if you are having trouble figuring out how to leave your “stuff” here’s an example of what other people have done:

  • Everything to their children in equal shares,
  • Everything to their children in unequal shares based on the needs of each child,
  • Everything to their children, and then to their grandchildren if a child has predeceased them,
  • Everything to their children, and then to their children’s spouse and children, if their child has predeceased them.
  • Distributions staggered by the age of the child (30% of their share at a certain age, half of the remaining share at another age, the rest at a third age),
  • Distributions staggered based on the ages of a younger set of children from one marriage and an older set of children from another marriage,
  • Divided between children and a significant other,
  • Divided equally among their siblings and parents,
  • Divided among charities with a small amount going to some relatives,
  • Divided among charities and friends,
  • To their children who have helped them the most,
  • To their children who need the most help,
  • To in-laws they consider children,
  • To their children, with a share divided between their grandchildren.
  • Split between the children of one spouse and the children of the other spouse,
  • In trust to their children,
  • In the form of a scholarship to a school or program that is important to them.

And I’m sure if we looked at the probate files at the Courthouse we’d see a hundred more variations.

The point of this post is to reassure you that the choice really is up to you, and there isn’t really a “normal” way of doing things. And, in general, you can change the distributions as your situation or those of your beneficiaries change.