There’s nothing like the question of how to divide an inheritance fairly to give parents nightmares. Likewise, there’s nothing like parents giving more money to one child to cause conflict between siblings. Because the territory here is so fraught, many parents opt to dish out equal inheritances to each kid and yet this, too, can land them in hot water. Fair, after all, is not always equal.
Say, for instance, that you have three children. One runs a successful dental practice and is living the suburban dream, the other travels widely thanks to their remote IT position, and the third is struggling to keep their own kids in little league soccer after being laid off during the pandemic. Providing each an equal inheritance may be the easy answer but it’s likely not the right one. That third child may well resent not receiving a little more help when they clearly could have used it and, while nobody can say without more context, they might be right.
Lay-offs, divorces, second marriages, the presence or lack of children, choice of profession, and myriad other factors shape your loved ones’ economic needs. No two children are the same and neither is the way they may relate to the touchy subject of inheritances. While one might believe an even split is the fair way to go another might not feel seen by such a decision. This is why the answer to how to divide an inheritance fairly rests in communication.
Talk Now, While You Still Can
Ensuring that the legacy you leave behind is one of support and love depends on ensuring your children understand your thinking. Even the best intentions are subject to distortion which is why you need to talk while time remains.
Some parents choose to speak with each child individually, others gather the family together as a group, and yet others turn to a mediator experienced in family law. No approach is better than the others and the right decision will depend on individual dynamics. What matters is simply that you open a line of communication.
Arline Kardasis, co-founder of Elder Decisions in Norwood, MA, for instance, relates one case where a father of two successful sons asked how everyone would feel if he left more to a third son struggling with health and financial issues.
Everyone agreed that the priority was maintaining strong relationships and so they signed on to an unequal inheritance as a safeguard against anyone asking for anyone else’s help in the future. The family saw that this latter possibility was a bigger threat to their harmony than any hard feelings over family money.
Your family may have nothing to do with the examples provided but surely has nuances of its own. An estate planning attorney experienced in family law is your best resource for learning more about how to navigate your unique circumstances in a way that ensures all of your loved ones feel cared for now and long into the future.
To learn more about navigating unequal inheritances or any other matter related to estate planning, do not hesitate to contact the Polaris Law Group either by calling 636-757-3850 or using the contact form on our webpage.