Of course, in most families, the split is an equal one, giving adult siblings no reason to quibble over the disposition of cash and other assets. Yet some parents decide to single out one or more children for a bigger, smaller or differently structured inheritance. Even if the reasoning is valid - perhaps one child has special needs, or offered the parents much more care than other siblings did - the resulting powder keg can put financial advisors in a tricky position.
Will you split your estate equally between your children? If not, how will you handle the potential emotions that could arise from unequal inheritances?
For most people the idea that parents would want to leave more of an estate to one child than another conjures up the idea that the parents do not love one child as much as the other. Estate planning attorneys, however, know that is rarely the case.
There are many valid reasons why parents would leave more to one child than another.
In some cases, the parents have given one child more money already to help the child out when needed. In other cases, one of the children has special needs and needs more money to take care of him or herself. Another common reason is that one child might have a serious drug addiction and access to more money could just make the addiction worse.
In all of these cases, the problem parents have is how to leave unequal inheritances without destroying any familial bonds between the children.
Financial Planning, in an article titled "Family Drama: 'But She Got More!," provides pointers parents should consider to minimize the chances of squabbling children.
One of their best suggestions is to use a trust instead of a will.
Because trusts are private documents that do not have to go through probate, it is much more difficult to challenge them. That makes it difficult for any siblings with hurt feelings to use the court system to fight it out in public.
If you have a good reason for leaving unequal inheritances to your children, talk to your estate planning attorney about the best way to do so. Trusts are just one way, but your attorney likely will have other options and suggestions for you.