When your children aren’t receiving equal inheritance: Advice on soothing feelings and reducing the risk of estate litigation

As you work on your estate planning, one of the decisions you may make is to leave unequal portions of your estate to your child beneficiaries. Maybe you have a good reasons for doing so. However, your children may react to your decision with hurt and anger.

Adult children could interpret unequal inheritance as a sign that you also love them unequally. Some might choose to pursue estate litigation contesting your will or other estate documents. But even if they don’t, they might be bitterly hurt and also resentful of siblings who inherited more.

The following is some advice for reducing the chances of pain, rancor, and possible litigation:

Give your decisions careful consideration. If you’re thinking about distributing your estate unequally among your kids, make sure you have good reasons for doing so. Don’t act out of spite or impulsiveness (for example, in angry, knee-jerk reaction to a fight you may have had with one of your children).

Explain your decision to your children. Ideally, you’ll discuss your estate planning with your children when you’re still alive and in possession of full mental capacities. Even if it’s a painful subject, try to discuss your reasoning with them. In some situations, your reasons may be more understandable; for example, you might be leaving more money to an adult child who has serious medical problems and, in consequence, more expenses. In other cases, the reasons may be less acceptable to your children; you may have to prepare yourself for some fraught conversations.

Make your explanations as loving as possible. When you discuss your estate planning with your kids, keep the conversation as gentle and loving as possible. Don’t inject unnecessary rancor into it. You can also leave each child a note after your death, not only explaining your decision but also reaffirming your love for them and the fact that your decision isn’t based on favoritism.

Make your estate documents ironclad. To reduce the chances of a dispute after your death, make sure your will and other estate documents are written in an airtight and clear way, reflecting your wishes unambiguously.

When you contact us to discuss your estate planning, we will help you with every part of the process, including giving you advice on how to consider and handle a situation involving unequal inheritance. With the assistance of an experienced estate attorney, you’re more likely to succeed in having your wishes respected without alienating your child beneficiaries.

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