Intro to the Hotchpot and How It Equalizes Earlier Gifts in an Estate

While some family circumstances dictate that some children be treated differently from others, in many cases parents want their children to receive equal portions of the family’s assets. At the same time, they may find that they are providing more support to some children compared to the “financially independent” ones. For example, you may lend a child money for a down payment on a house or to start a new business venture. Or you may help another child by buying them a reliable vehicle or make an outright gift of money to help them get through a rough patch or fend off foreclosure. How can you address both situations through estate planning? By using a hotchpot.

A hotchpot works by adding advanced/gifted amounts back into the total inheritance pot, calculating the portion each beneficiary is entitled to, and then distributing to each beneficiary their portion of the hotchpot minus any amount they have already received.

Here is an illustration:

Let’s say you have three children whom you want to treat them equally, so you designate that each child will receive one-third of your estate.

For the sake of this illustration, let’s also say that the following events happen:

  • You decide to move into a condo and you give the family home, valued at $120K, to Child A

  • At the time of your death, you have a $360K estate

If each heir is given one-third ($120K), Child A will have received the house (worth $120K) plus $120K - double what the others receive.

What about deducting the value of the home ($120K) from Child A’s one-third share? That also would lead to an unequal result (and possible strife or hurt feelings): Child A would have received the $120K home while his or her siblings would each get $180K.

What’s a parent to do? Hotchpot to the rescue!

A hotchpot clause in a trust or will instructs that specified gifts and unpaid loans be treated as advancements against a beneficiary’s inheritance and directs the trustee or personal representative to incorporate those advances into a hotchpot before dividing up the trust or estate. Each of the heirs receives their portion of the hotchpot minus any advancement they already received.

Looking back at our illustration, the hotchpot would equal $480K ($120K house plus $360K estate). Child B and Child C would each receive $160K (one-third of the hotchpot) and Child A would receive $40K (one-third of the hotchpot minus the $120K advancement).

Let’s double-check the math:

$40,000 (Child A)

+ $160,000 (Child B)

+ $160,000 (Child B)

$360,000 estate distributions

You must document your intent, in writing, of each loan or gift you want included in the hotchpot. Otherwise, the lifetime gift will have no effect on how your estate is divided and your heirs may be grumpy and mad because they feel like they were treated unequally. Your JGB attorney can help ensure that your wishes are carried out when you’re no longer able or around to state them. Hotchpot clauses are a useful tool in that work.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from JGB! Cheers!

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