Unequal Inheritances: What’s Fair Isn’t Always Fair

In most cases, when people divide up their estate, they try to be as fair as possible. Whatever their portfolio of assets looks like, they typically try to parcel it out evenly between their children or heirs. However, in some cases, it may actually be more fair to leave unequal inheritances to your beneficiaries.

There are a variety of reasons why a person might opt for an unequal inheritance, but whatever the reason, this arrangement can cause conflict among your loved ones. Therefore, it’s important that you effectively communicate the reasons for your decision, in order to avoid any resentment or hurt feelings amongst your beneficiaries.

Reasons for Choosing Unequal Inheritances

Here are four common reasons why someone may choose to distribute their assets unevenly:

  1. One child is a caregiver. If one of your children is more involved in caring for you as you get older, you may consider leaving that child a larger share of the inheritance as a repayment for all their hard work and care.
  2. One child has special needs. If one of your children has special needs, they may need more financial assistance than your other kids. Setting up a special needs trust can be a good way to ensure that they will be taken care of, but doing so will likely account for a larger share of your distributable assets. Children with other issues, such as mental illness or addictions, may also require a larger or smaller share of your assets.
  3. There are significant wealth disparities between your children. Despite similar upbringings, different people often find themselves in different stations in life. If this is the case with your children, you may decide to leave more money to your less affluent kids, as they may require more assistance than those who earn more money.
  4. Biological vs. stepchildren. Finally, you may wish to differentiate between biological children and stepchildren in your will. Every family has its own dynamic, and you may wish to take this into consideration when planning your estate.
Talking to Your Beneficiaries About Your Decision

Speaking to your loved ones about your decision to leave unequal inheritances can be a touchy subject, but there are a few things you can do to ensure as smooth a conversation as possible. Typically, it is best to be honest and upfront with your beneficiaries. Talking to each one individually and explaining the reasons for your decision can go a long way towards soothing any hurt feelings. You should talk with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your reasoning and the best way to make sure that your plan will be implemented as you intend.

If you’re considering leaving an unequal inheritance, the attorneys at the Hailey-Petty Law Firm are here to help. We have many years of experience assisting our clients with all aspects of estate planning. Do not hesitate to reach out to us by filling out the contact form below.

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