What to consider if you want to leave unequal inheritances

Every parent knows that it can be a struggle to maintain fairness when it comes to giving gifts to their kids.

Feelings of unfairness can be upsetting for kids of any age, including adult children, and it can make estate planning particularly challenging for parents who want to leave their children inheritances that are not monetarily equal. If you are thinking of leaving your kids different-sized inheritances, there are some steps you should consider taking to make your decision less divisive.

Communicate with your kids

While it can be difficult, discussing your plans with your older or adult children now can prevent an unexpected and potentially hurtful surprise for them after you are gone. Further, disclosing your plans can give them the opportunity to ask questions and clarify the expectations. 

Setting aside or gifting money now

As this article on uneven distributions notes, parents don't have to wait until they are gone for children to receive the benefit of financial gifts. You might decide to help children now instead of leaving it in your will, and this could help you make changes and adjust your plans to fit the current needs of your kids.

An example in the article is helping a child buy a home. You could use saved money to help one child buy a home. If the other isn't ready or interested in that, you could set that money aside or agree to help them in other meaningful ways.

Consider ways to even things out

If you are leaving unequal sums of money to your kids, consider options to even things out. You might leave one child a prized possession in lieu of cash to one child. You might also consider setting up trusts that release funds based on completion of a milestone, which leaves the distribution of funds in your children's hands. 

Discussing your options with an attorney

Whatever you decide to leave to your children as an inheritance, it is a gesture that you probably take very seriously, as will your kids. To protect this and any other gift you give, it can be valuable to discuss with your attorney the plans you have, as well as how you can preserve them with long-term and estate planning.

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