It's Your Parents' Money, Not Yours

Posted: Jun 30, 2009 12:01 AM

DEAR BRUCE: You have said several times that parents are not responsible for leaving equal amounts, if any, to their children in their wills. In my instance, I have worked hard all of my adult life, and my brother has basically been a slacker. I am clearly more successful than he is, so you're saying that I should receive less inheritance than my brother? If anything, I think I should be rewarded for being an upstanding citizen. -- Reader, via e-mail

DEAR READER: I'm not implying that you should receive less or more. Where does it say that your parents must leave anything to you or your brother? If they wish, they could leave everything to their favorite charity. What your parents leave behind is entirely up to them. I quarrel with this business of parents taking a guilt trip because they can't divide their assets strictly on a share-and-share-alike basis. Whether your parents chose to split it 50/50, 60/40 or 30/70, I don't believe it is the rightful concern of any potential heir. I'm delighted that you are successful. You are to be congratulated on building a good life and future.

DEAR BRUCE: I have seen the term in your column many times but have no idea what it means. What is a limited liability corporation (LLC)? Are there any tax or liability advantages for a small business? I'm not sure if it's something I should be doing as a small-business owner and not sure who to talk to about it. -- Reader in Texas

DEAR READER: The initials LLC refer to a limited liability company, not corporation. Whether an LLC or a Subchapter S is best for you, only your accountant, and possibly your attorney, can say for certain. They can discuss the pros and cons for tax and liability purposes.

DEAR BRUCE: I am trying to buy my first house. I already have a "buyer agency agreement." I have heard you mention over and over again to hire an attorney. Do I still need one with the buyer agency agreement? -- T.R. in Minnesota

DEAR T.R.: The real-estate agent's function is to bring a buyer and a seller together. He is not concerned whether you have an attorney or not; in his eyes, he is doing what he needs to do for their company. So who is protecting you? Only YOUR attorney is looking out for your best interests. Whether you are the buyer or the seller, a lawyer should always be present to represent you. Whether you're talking about an escrow company or a title company, you are discussing tens, even thousands of dollars. It's downright foolish not to protect yourself.