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Unequal Inheritances - Handle With Care

Advisors say it doesn't happen often, but parents who divide their assets unevenly are playing with fire. That said, there are things they can do to try to keep the fire under control, so it doesn't become a conflagration that blows the family up.

Sometimes it is easy to split up your assets like pieces of the pie, with equal pieces for everyone. Sometimes, the assets just do not split that way or maybe you do not want to split them equally. For those who receive something less than equal, they may feel spurned or sense favoritism.

How do you split your estate unevenly and still keep the peace in the family or, at the very least, keep it out of the courts?

The uneven distribution of an estate is always a challenge. Nevertheless, when it must happen, it must happen carefully. Why might you split assets differently among your children and what are the challenges? Private Wealth investigated this matter recently in an article titled "Playing Favorites."

While "favoritism" may be the sole motivation, such is generally the exception to the rule. Commonly, after a "lifetime" of rearing their children, parents may want to level the playing field out of a sense of fairness. Whether making adjustments for unrepaid lifetime "loans," helping children who were less "successful" financially than their siblings, or protecting an inheritance from a squandering prodigal, the reasons for unequal inheritances as unique as families themselves.

Since there are so many variations on the unequal inheritance theme, the key is to ensure that your reasons are thought-through, valid, and, better yet, conveyed. Remember: inheritance and disinheritance are complicated subjects, both legally and emotionally. Depending upon your reasons, you may even find another path forward to be more useful.

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