How To Handle an Unequal Inheritance?

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“In your Estate Plan, particularly your will, you may describe how you want everything to be divided and distributed and to whom. This can lead to questions about how much inheritance you would like to leave to each family member.”

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How To Handle an Unequal Inheritance?

When one family member deserves a larger inheritance than another, you may find yourself in that situation occasionally. If you believe the decision is unfair, it may cause hurt feelings among family members, so be careful when making this decision.

For this reason, it is crucial to make sure your will explains your wishes clearly and provides a reasonable explanation of your wishes. Maintaining family relationships and avoiding hurt feelings is very important to Attorneys Group. The following article, How to Handle an Unequal Inheritance, discusses unequal inheritance, its reasons, and how to deal with it.


What is Inheritance?

Before discussing how to handle the issue of inheritance inequalities, you need to know what an inheritance is. An inheritance is any property that you leave to a particular person in your Will. If an inheritance is not equal, it signifies that the worth of the assets passed to each person doesn’t amount to the same amount for everyone.

You initially thought that unjust inheritance to the children of your family was less common. However, it is more prevalent than you thought, and the rate appears to be growing. 


What are the Reasons for Leaving Unequal Inheritance?

You may decide to divide your inheritance among your children for numerous reasons. We’ve listed some possible motives below.


Considering Caregivers

One of the most common reasons people leave an unbalanced inheritance to children is when a child becomes their primary caregiver later in life. It is typical for parents to give children who were primary caretakers during their final years a more significant amount they have inherited in their will. 

This is to pay them back for all their assistance. It could be that your child did not want to spend being your primary caregiver, so you’re trying to find a way to repay them for everything they have done.


Biological children and Stepchildren

You need to separate the amount you give your biological children and stepchildren. This is especially important if your stepchildren join your family later on. You and your spouse could have divided assets or split Wills. This would state that you have different sums for your children’s biological parents.


What Should You Do If You’re Faced with an Unjust Inheritance?

How To Handle an Unequal Inheritance? Staying at peace and avoiding arguments with your sister is essential. Keep in mind that your sibling also experienced a significant loss. Try to determine how they can resolve in a private conversation. Families prefer to make decisions in a non-judicial setting after a loss.

However, if your child does not accept compromise, you must follow the steps needed to assert what’s yours legally. This could mean requesting legal counsel and challenging the inheritance in court.

To understand how to handle unequal inheritance, you must know what inheritance is. You can leave an inheritance to a specific individual within your will or to a specific recipient within your will.

An inheritance can include a car, jewelry, clothing, money, a 401k account, and more. An unequal inheritance means that the value of each individual’s assets does not equal the amount left to them.


When Siblings or Other Loved Ones Inherit Unequally, What Usually Happens?

How To Handle an Unequal Inheritance? Several factors influence the way an individual distributes an inheritance to children. These include:

  • A child’s ability to provide more care to their parents during their lifetime
  • Children with special needs differ from those without
  • If any of the children have children to take care of
  • The number of children in a blended family (i.e., stepchildren, adopted children)
  • The child may need more financial help if they are less financially well-off than their siblings.

Mercer Wealth Management and Age Wave state in a widely cited 2018 survey that any of the following circumstances may lead a parent to consider leaving siblings unequal inheritances.

An unequal inheritance between siblings can be left to a child when the parents feel it is necessary to compensate that child for some of the difficulties in their lives. For example, if a child is addicted to drugs or has exhibited financial irresponsibility, the parents may leave less to that child to spend.

It doesn’t matter why there is an unequal inheritance. Those who get less than their siblings will surely be unhappy and angry. Especially if they were surprised to find out about it. The parent may never have anticipated a bitter family dispute between the children.


The distinction between trust and the will.

It’s crucial to understand that there is a massive distinction between trust and the will. It’s necessary to make a petition for probate to challenge a will. This is a scenario in which the court must be at every step and ensure that no one will receive any money without a court’s approval.

However, trusts are usually handled outside of court. Therefore, contesting them requires a different procedure. But people can still challenge trust.

You can also challenge trust in the same way as a will. This requires proving the incompetence or ability of the person inheriting most of the farm business.

The person contesting the trust must show a lack of capability, fraud, excessive influence, or a valid justification. This is why the trust will not stand up in court.


The Best Way to Handle an Unequal Inheritance.

How to Handle an Unequal Inheritance? You can put measures in place to cut or even prevent any tension between your children that may result from leaving them an unequal inheritance.


Deal with Unequal Inheritances.


Discuss the reasons behind your estate plan with your children.

Inheritances serve as a symbol of your love for your children. Children may feel you don’t love them as much if they receive a smaller inheritance than others.

It would help to discuss the reasons behind your estate plan with your children to avoid hurt feelings. Your children may agree that their special needs sibling needs more financial help. You selected unequal distribution because it provides the best tax advantage or greater asset protection.

Your children may only know or appreciate these considerations if you tell them about them. Your inheritance may be a measure of good estate planning rather than a comparison of your love for them. Once they understand, you have good reasons for dividing your property unequally.


Your decisions should be more acceptable.

Discussing your estate plan with your children is important so they do not have unrealistic expectations. To avoid disappointment and hurt feelings in your child’s eyes, let them know your plans and the reasons for them ahead of time. As a result, your decisions will be more acceptable to them, and they will have more time to discuss them with their siblings.

The unequal division of their inheritance allows them to receive a fair inheritance due to the gifts you provided them during their lifetimes. That way, their inheritance will meet their expectations and not surprise them.


You might consider creating a trust instead of receiving a lump sum of assets upon death.

A will can be one of many ways to distribute property if you fear them not understanding or accepting their unequal inheritance. You might consider creating a trust instead of receiving a lump sum of assets upon death. This way, you can control how your assets flow over time.

In a trust, you can distribute equal inheritances to all children. But limit how or when a financially irresponsible child can receive them. Trusts are also private, unlike wills, which become public documents when you pass away. If you use a trust, you can give assets to a child without letting your other children know what’s going on.

Also, you might name one or more children as beneficiaries in your will of a life insurance policy or another item that will pay out after death that is not part of your will but will be a beneficiary of it. If a child doesn’t receive benefits like college tuition, wedding payments, or down payments, this may be a way to provide for them.

The intention of your gift to certain children during life should explain when you make it so that it will count in their inheritance. Including a promissory note or other writing stating your intent that the gift was an advance on their inheritance might be helpful.

Ensure you explicitly mention inter-vivo gifts (gifts made during your lifetime) in your will, as this will explain and account for any unequal distributions.


Conflict Prevention Methods

How do you deal with unequal inheritance? It is often the case that unequal inheritances reward children for their help or ensure they remain in the best financial situation possible. Still, a dispute can arise if one sibling feels another did not earn the extra inheritance.


Describe what you intend to leave your heirs.

Please discuss what you intend to leave your heirs with an honest conversation before it’s too late. An estate planning attorney can help siblings work through emotional reactions. Siblings can work through tax implications and liabilities associated with the assets with the help of a professional mediator.

Writing a handwritten letter to your family is also possible if you aren’t comfortable speaking directly to them.


Put a deterrent in place.

However, even after explaining your choices to your heirs, they may still contest the will at probate time. Suppose you want to discourage your heirs from contesting your will. Include a no-contest clause stating that anyone who contests the will loses their inheritance.

To ensure your will’s wording will stand in court, consult an estate planning attorney in your state. These clauses are interpreted differently in every state.


Consider a trust if you’re more concerned.

Consider a trust if you’re more concerned about how you’ll use your assets. For example, if your child is irresponsible with money, you consider giving them a smaller inheritance.

The trustee of a spendthrift trust can decide when and how much the beneficiary will receive over time. Creating an educational trust is also an option to preserve school funds.

Unlike wills, trusts are typically harder to contest since they bypass probate. A process by which a deceased individual’s assets pass under court supervision.


Secure relationships are a priority.

The financial need of someone to contest their parents’ will can certainly drive them to do so. Long-held sibling resentments may surface when a parent dies. And a larger inheritance may favor one child over another.

Children are more likely to accept an unequal inheritance if they feel secure in their relationship with their parents.


Contesting Your Inheritance: Legal Grounds for Challenging Unequal Inheritance

How to Handle an Unequal Inheritance? Parents typically have comprehensive decision-making authority over how they distribute the inheritance. However, there can be some limitations regarding unequal treatment, which could result in legal action. If you believe that a trust or will clearly and, in a way, unfairly discriminates against the rightful inheritors without justification, it is possible to challenge the distribution of inheritance.

These are the most common scenarios that could give enough authority to challenge an unjust division of inheritance legally.


Undue Influence.

If someone can prove that a beneficiary manipulated or coerced a deceased person into writing the estate plan in a particular manner, it could serve as grounds for taking legal action.


Lack of Mental Capacity.

Suppose medical records or evidence prove that the deceased had a weak mind or judgment during their final period due to illness. In that case, the heirs may challenge the decision’s validity. They may only do so if adequately included in the decision-making process.


Improper Execution.

Wills and trusts should follow state laws. This includes proper sign-off, witnessing procedures, and notarization. Legal disputes can successfully prove fraud in execution or document manipulation. This manipulation makes inheritance directives null and void.

The standard for winning an inheritance contest based on legal grounds is very low and determined individually. Before taking steps, talk to an estate planning lawyer for advice on the potential for success. Make sure you align your expectations with reality.


The Right Time to Hire an Attorney

A will contest and a trust contest involve many steps, so many individuals hire an attorney to ensure that assets pass equally. In some cases, an attorney can assist the two parties in settling the issue before it ever goes to court. The attorneys will take it upon themselves if the case reaches a court to disprove its validity or prove that the business cannot enjoy the decision.

Hedy Ghavidel

HEDY GHAVIDEL Managing Attorney  Roseville Office  1-866-471-6981  Bio...

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