Planning for Unequal Inheritances

In an ideal world, parents remain connected to all of their children and feel confident and comfortable equally dividing their assets among them. Unfortunately, real life is not always ideal—relationships can become strained, or parents may have other compelling reasons for giving their children varying amounts in their wills. A skilled estate planning attorney can help navigate creative solutions and prepare for any challenges or contests in the event of unequal inheritances.

Consider that Every Family is Different

If you are a parent considering an estate plan that results in unequal inheritances for each of your children, you may be experiencing feelings of guilt, frustration, or even resentment. Understanding that these feelings are common but that you are doing your best to bring about an equitable and fair solution can help you see more clearly to best communicate your needs and effectuate your end-of-life plans. Family and personal differences may mean that fair does not mean equal. An estate planning attorney can help come up with ways to make sure everyone is taken care of based on their unique family needs.

Explore Creative Solutions

If, for example, a family has two high-income adult children with steady jobs and families of their own and one who has struggled to hold steady employment, parents may feel at a loss for what to do. They may fear that the third heir would mismanage the money and end up worse off.

One creative solution could be to give each child an equal share of inheritance but place the third heir’s funds in a trust. However, if the trust is not sufficiently large, trustee fees may make it more difficult for the third heir to receive a steady income for long. Parents may understand that the child who has struggled has a greater need for the inheritance and reduce or eliminate the inheritances of the other two children. But this can create bitterness and hostility and can trigger fighting after the parent’s or parents’ death. Instead, another solution may be to leave language in the will that would allow the high-income children to support their sibling with a portion of their inheritance, if they choose, that would go into a trust for the third sibling. This is an especially reasonable outcome if the other siblings logically understand that helping their sibling would be a rational use of funds.

Communicate with Your Heirs

None of the above solutions would be possible without clear and honest communication. A common reason for sibling infighting and discord during and after the probate of a will is a lack of communication and no clear setting of expectations. Parents should understand their heirs’ feelings and create a judgment-free environment to discuss possible solutions. While keeping family happy is important, at the end of the day, your assets will be left according to your wishes. Making sure every beneficiary involved understands your reasoning and motivations can help reduce any confusion or hostility.

Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney

To discuss planning for multiple heirs, contact the Houston estate planning lawyers at McCulloch Miller, PLLC. Our attorneys have extensive experience in estate planning and other family law and financial matters. Contact our office at 713-936-9073 to schedule an initial consultation with an attorney on our team.

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