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
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living