Many people take advantage of having their families together over the holidays to discuss their estate plans. Maybe you’re in the early stages of thinking about your plan. Perhaps you have one in place and just want to check in with everyone to see if there are things that you need to revise.
Maybe the daughter you’ve appointed as your executor is planning to move overseas. That could make it difficult for her to carry out her duties. Maybe the son you’re leaving your Big Bear vacation home to no longer wants it. Of course, big life events, like marriage, babies, divorce and death, are also times to look at necessary modifications to your estate plan.
Many people with two or more adult kids hesitate to have these conversations with them if they’re not leaving them equal shares of their estate. Some experts recommend against unequal inheritances because of the rancor they can cause. However, you may have a good reason for this inequality.
For example, if you have a child whom you’ve had to give added financial support over the years, you may feel it’s best to leave your other kids more after you’re gone. One of your children may have done more to help you out if you became ill or disabled, so you believe you owe them more.
Sometimes, a good way to even out what you believe is a necessary imbalance is to give one child — for instance, the caregiver — more while you’re still alive. That way, you can leave an equal inheritance to all of your children.
Sometimes, parents choose to leave more to an adult child who isn’t as financially well-off as their siblings. That may make sense to you but can also cause resentment among your kids who may feel like they’re being penalized for their hard work and success.
If you’re leaving unequal shares of your estate to your children, it’s best to talk to them about it while you’re still around and explain how you arrived at your decision. While this can result in some unpleasant conversations, it’s better that they understand that you made the decision without coercion and have a chance to ask questions or even express their anger. Your attorney can provide some guidance for having these conversations and other difficult aspects of estate planning.