This past Sunday, my family and I went to the U.S. Steel Yard and watched the RailCats play from one of the outfield party decks. As we sat with friends watching the game, Logan, one of my 11-year-old twins, watched the game from the grassy area at the outfield wall hoping to catch a home run.
Logan didn’t catch his home run that day but at one point, an outfielder (Guerrero, I think) caught a fly ball near the warning track. He then trotted to the wall and tossed the ball to Logan. I could see the smile on my son’s face from where I was sitting. That smile stayed there until he noticed the 6-year-old boy staring at his new treasurer from a few feet away. That’s when my son walked over to the little dude and handed him the ball.
I’ve been to a lot of RailCats games and I’ve watched my son chase every stray ball that came anywhere near our section. To finally see him get his ball only to give it away to a younger boy made my heart glow. You can’t teach that. It comes from the inside.
Now what does this have to do with estate planning? During the past 19 years I have listened to clients tell me how proud they are of their children. I’ve heard about the daughter that put herself through school and is now a physician in New York or the son who is a foster parent for kids in need. People often tell me stories like these to let me know why they are leaving everything to their children. I don’t need an explanation, but I sure enjoy hearing the stories from the proud parents.
What is a more difficult to hear are the stories about the children that didn’t quite live up to their parents expectations. As proud as some parents are, others are equally disappointed in the things some of their kids have done, or perhaps, not done. From the son that ended up in jail for being in the wrong place at the wrong time to the daughter that can’t quite stay out of the casinos, I’ve heard it all. I just want to hug some of these people when they tell me their stories.
After the stories, I am asked the inevitable question “is it all right to leave them out of the will?” Unfortunately, I can’t tell them if they should or shouldn’t include a ne’er-do-well; I would sometimes like to, but I can’t. What I can tell them is that leaving a loved one an inheritance isn’t an obligation. Sure it’s a nice thing to do, but, with the possible exception of a spouse, you don’t “have” to include anyone.
If excluding an errant child is the right thing to do, you should do it. None of you should feel obligated to include a loved one who doesn’t deserve it. It’s your money; leave it to who you want to.
As for Logan, I couldn’t be prouder of my boy and I’m pretty sure that he made it into the will on Sunday. More importantly, I posted the picture of him giving away his ball on Facebook. I’m not sure which one he’ll be happier to hear about.