Estate Planning, Probate & Elder Law Tips, Tricks, News, Upcoming Events & More

This is So Unfair: Let’s Talk About Unequal Inheritance

Fair doesn’t always mean equal. If you’re out for dinner with your kids aged two and ten, you’re not going to order them the same meal. Likewise, if you’re at a CrossFit class with a friend who’s never lifted more than your spirit, you’re not going to squat the same weight. Fairness means treating people according to their needs, and—unless we’re talking about unequal inheritances—this is pretty uncontroversial. As soon as money enters the conversation, however, things get messy…

Older parents build an estate plan for one simple purpose: to ensure their children and loved ones are cared for when they’re gone. This is responsible—even noble—but it’s not easy. Caring, after all, is a charged subject and can take on a lot of different meanings.

Imagine, for instance, that you have three adult children. One’s a surgeon, the other an IT specialist living the digital nomad dream in Bali, and the third got laid off during the pandemic and is struggling to get back on their feet. Do you split your estate equally among them? Will your unlucky, hard-up third child feel seen and cared for if each sibling receives an equal inheritance? It depends on the kids, of course, but I’m going to bet that the answer is no.

Or, let’s say that one of your kids has three kids of their own and just went through a traumatizing divorce, while the other two are happily married, kid-free, loving life, and coasting down easy street. How about now?

If you’re like so many parents, you may not want to rock the boat by dishing out an unequal inheritance between siblings, and yet in the situations outlined above, doing just this might really be what you think is the right thing to do.  Although the decision truly is yours, your “guilt” may cause you to go against your better judgment.

Finding peace between your mind and your heart when faced with such a choice can be difficult. No one wants to leave a legacy of hurt feelings and misunderstanding, which is why if you’re pondering an unequal inheritance, this is what you need to know.

Mitigating the Effects of Unequal Inheritance

Communication is the only way to mitigate the effects of unequal inheritance. Read that again. Communication is the ONLY way. Long before your time is up, you need to sit down with your children and talk them through your decisions. Some parents will choose to do this one-on-one with each child, others will call the whole family together, and others still will seek professional mediation. The best approach, of course, will be the one that best suits your family.

If grandchildren are in the picture and they are old enough to participate in such a conversation, they should also be included. After all, unequal inheritance between grandchildren can be just as damaging as between children.

An experienced estate planning attorney is an excellent resource for insight into how to navigate this, and any other delicate matter associated with administering your estate. The experience we’ve gained by working with hundreds of families means that we are not only experienced in the bureaucratic side of things, but on the personal side, as well.

To learn more about navigating the dicey territory of unequal inheritances, do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Firm of Blanche D. Smith either by calling (936) 301-0111 or using the contact form below:

Monique Hineline

Smith & Smith are very professional, informative, and relatable with examples and stories to ease the estate planning process. I had the best time at their lunch and learn. Even if you already have your estate planning in place I highly recommend attending a lunch and learn. Thanks Smith & Smith!