The help desk: 'I'm writing my will - should I divide everything equally between my children?'

'It is not your business to equalise their status in life at this late stage'

Q. I am in my late sixties and I have recently started to make a will. I have two daughters. One is married and earns good money as a dentist, and she and her husband own a nice house. Her elder sister is a single parent to my lovely granddaughter, aged three. She's talented and clever but has not been so lucky and things have always been difficult for her financially.

I own my house and also a small flat that I rent out, so, depending on what my old age brings, there could be quite a bit to pass on. My instinct is to leave the greater part to my elder daughter, as I can see she will always struggle, and it would make the most difference to her and my granddaughter. But my partner (who is not their father) is adamant that this will cause bad feeling between them (though they've always got on well) and says I should divide everything equally. That just doesn't seem fair to me. What should I do?

A. If money were just money, if we did not so readily equate it with worth, if it did not have a track record of tearing families apart and causing bloody wars, then your Robin Hood policy would make a lot of sense. Yes, it's fair, in a way. You elder daughter is likely to need the money more. But do you really think your younger one will see it that way?

She has done well in life, got herself qualified and settled, and might reasonably expect a bit of a pat on the back from her mother. Instead, she will see the "reward" going to her less successful sister.

I wonder if you have any siblings yourself. I have five, and during our childhood, the work of the fairness police never stopped. Tape measures were routinely employed in the division of chocolate. Have I forgotten the time when two of my sisters inexplicably, outrageously, returned from Carnaby Street wearing jumbo cord miniskirts from Kids in Gear? No, I have not. Fraternal competition for resources is ferocious, because, in our hearts, it is a competition for love.

We never really grow out of this, and most of us are still mentally counting out the Smarties. My guess is that if you followed your plan, it would cause anguish from which the loving relationship between your daughters would never recover.

So I say you divide it down the middle. It is not your business to equalise their status in life at this late stage (or indeed, a much later stage, as here's hoping you've got a few good years in you yet). In any case, her half of your money will have a greater impact on the life of your poorer daughter. If it's your granddaughter you're thinking of, leave some money to her. But remember that any children your other daughter produces after you die will not have received the same benefit. So it goes on.

It's your money, though. And if you decide to follow your plan, explain your decision to your daughters without delay. I've seen the heartbreak caused by an unexpected "snub" in a parent's will, and the pain is that much worse when there's no longer the opportunity to ask why.

Your problem shared

Have a dilemma? Email your predicament no matter how big or small to Louisa at thehelpdesk@independent.co.uk

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Service Plan Champion

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Service Plan Champi...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

    £24100 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Manager is required t...

    Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing Consultant - Part Time

    £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A part time vacancy has arisen for an energet...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific