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

News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
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: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

    £15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

    Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us