Are “Unequal Inheritances” inherently unfair?

Not all adult children are always treated equally upon their parent’s passing. Quite often I’m asked the question regarding the best way to leave children an unequal inheritance (unequal portions of an estate).  It isn’t always a question of an unequal inheritance; sometimes it is a question of what is fair.

If you plan to provide different amounts to your children in your estate plan, preparation is important. Nobody wants to plan for family infighting! Most important legacy we can give our children is leaving them with harmonious relationships with their siblings.

It is natural for parents to want to treat their children equally in their estate plan, but there are some circumstances in which a parent might want to leave children unequal inheritance shares. If one child is providing all the caregiving, the parent might want to reward that child. If one child is substantially better off than another child, then the parent might want to provide more for the child who has a greater need for the funds. Take a look at this great article with 7 simple reasons for the unequal shares.

Other factors that can influence how much to give each child is if one child has special needs or if there is a family business that only one child wants to run. It’s also possible that the parents have already provided more for one child during their lifetime, maybe by paying for graduate school or helping them buy a house.

Whatever the reason for leaving your children unequal shares, the important thing is to discuss your reasoning with the children. Sit down with them and explain your decision-making process. If you feel like the conversation could be difficult and contentious, you could hire a mediator to help facilitate the discussion.

Your children may be understanding of your decision, but if you are worried about one child challenging your will after you die, you may want to take additional steps.

We can help you draft your will, trust, and estate plan to avoid confusion and to make sure your children will not fight over what they have received when you are gone.    As always, make sure you avoid accusations of undue influence, by making sure you leave your adult children at home when you meet with me! See this Article I wrote regarding avoiding “will contests” quite some time ago.

Explain in detail your reasoning in your estate planning document and make it clear that it is your decision and not the influence of the child who may seem to be receiving more at your passing.

And as always, don’t try to do it yourself.  Consult with an attorney, if not me, then any other experienced Estate Planning attorney that knows how to counsel you and draft your documents to avoid the inherent issues with unequal inheritances.

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