As much as we like to think our relationships can’t be defined by money, it happens.
If you are planning your estate, or have already inked your planning, how will your loved ones react to their inheritance? Are you providing a “fair” or an “equal” inheritance? While it is your estate, it may be helpful to communicate your wishes and rationale now to avoid misunderstandings (or worse) later on.
The Washington Post recently explored this subject in an article titled “Dividing up money can cause divisions in families.” The article tracks the case of a certain individual who can’t help feeling resentment over the estate plan his parents have created. He believes the basis for the estate plan is his chosen “lifestyle.”
He is gay and his married sister is not. He has no children and she does. The parents of these adult children have chosen to leave an inheritance “directly” to their grandchildren, instead of “through” their daughter. The grandchildren are set to each inherit one-sixth of the estate, with the children splitting the remaining two-thirds.
The author of the article concludes thusly regarding the inheritance planning of these parents: “And yet, this is their prerogative. It’s their money.”
What about your own family and heirs – will they understand? What can you do to make yourself understood? Then again, if instead you are the one inheriting, have you thought it through from everyone’s perspective?
Properly thinking through your estate planning objectives and then committing it to proper legal instruments can be an arduous task. That is why too few otherwise responsible adults actually follow through on their intentions. One of the most common estate plans is one that lies unsigned in a desk drawer.
When all is said and done, it is your estate and you may distribute it as you wish. Period. Nevertheless, long-term family harmony often hinges on communicating your wishes while you are alive and able to explain them. Surprise is only a good thing when it comes to birthdays and military maneuvers.