When inheritances are not equal within a family

On Behalf of | Sep 21, 2022 | Estate Administration

Not all estate plans are created the same. The documents are personalized based on the individual’s specific preferences when it comes to asset distribution. Most wills call for equal distribution of the estate among the heirs. However, some plans are anything but equal, many for good reason.

The death of a loved one is an emotionally charged moment where surviving family members are not at their best. The discovery that some will get less than others can create conflict.

Opening the lines of communication

Proactive steps by the will’s creator to inform loved ones of the disparity can prepare a family for the strategy. Sitting down in a group setting or individual can keep the lines of communication open. While the final decision may do little to soothe any possible resentment, it will also eliminate a “surprise” that results in conflict.

A 2018 survey by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Age Wave revealed that two-thirds of Americans 55 or older showed that the child who provided care for parents would get a larger share of the inheritance. Additionally, 25 percent of parents would give more money to adult children who have kids.

Equal versus equitable

Equal should not be mistaken for equitable. Heirs may have various financial needs that require a more significant amount of the estate. Job loss/instability, disability, and illness are essential factors when tailoring what each family member receives.

Unequal inheritances can create chaos during a time of grieving. Many disputes wind up in court, often with accusations of undue influence. In the end, well-written and enforceable documents can hopefully keep the peace for a grieving family.