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When completing estate plans, parents often decide to leave the bulk of their estate to their children. For parents of multiple children, decisions about how to allocate their children’s inheritance can be stressful. Some parents feel they need to treat their children equally, that to leave more or less to one child could cause hard feelings. However, even this seemingly straightforward decision can be an agonizing one when a parent feels one child needs or deserves a larger share of the estate when the parent is gone.
There are several common reasons someone may consider making unequal distributions to their children. Maybe one child has a greater financial need than another, or maybe one child simply doesn’t visit, call, or otherwise take an interest in the parent’s life. In some cases, parents may have loaned their children money or provided substantial financial help during their lifetimes without receiving repayment.
The bottom line is that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to divide your estate. If you are a parent, you are not legally obligated to leave anything for any of your children, and if you do, there is no requirement to treat them equally. It is ultimately up to you to decide what percentage of your assets should pass to each heir or beneficiary.
If you do decide to make uneven distributions to children in your estate planning documents, a best practice is to tell your children what you are doing and to explain your rationale for that decision. This type of discussion can be difficult, but it could ultimately help all of your children understand where you are coming from. Talking to all of your children ahead of time or writing a letter explaining your choice could help avoid estate litigation later.
At The Estate Planning & Legacy Law Center, we help people create estate plans that reflect their goals and wishes. Contact us to learn more!