Leaving Your Children Unequal Shares

When you make the decision to have a Will drafted, you want it to express your wishes and make things simpler for the loved ones you leave behind.You will determine how your assets will be distributed, choose an executor of your estate, and may select a guardian for your children. When the Will we drafted to your specifications is finalized, you can be confident that you have a valid legal document. 

However, there may be considerations that exist beyond the legality of the document. If you have three children and want to leave them unequal shares, how will your children respond when they discover your decision? This is something that is best received if your children understand the “why” behind your decision. That means you may need to have an uncomfortable conversation with your children about your decision.  At the very least, you should leave one or more letters explaining your decision.  If you avoid it and pass away before that discussion happens or without leaving a written explanation, it may leave your children confused and volatile.

Although someone cannot contest a will simply because they feel like they should have gotten more, they can challenge it because they believe you lacked the capacity to create a valid will. They may also claim that a sibling had undue influence on your decision. In the absence of answers, they may provide their own answers that are very different from your own. As a parent who chooses to leave unequal shares, take the time to explain to your children the “why” behind how you are choosing to pass down your assets. Your children may be upset, but at least they will understand the reasons behind your decision. Understanding can prevent or reduce a whole host of negative feelings.

How Should I Have This Conversation?

How it should be done is less important than that it should be done, there are two general reasons why it is important to have it. The first is that it could prevent probate litigation which is the successor to anger and volatility. The second is that probate litigation and accusations between siblings can irreparably  tear a family apart. If you take the time to set your affairs in order, the last thing you want to leave behind is a Will that destroys your family. 

The key is to explain to your children why you made the decisions you did. Perhaps one of your children grew up and assumed a significant amount of financial responsibility for you. This child may have sacrificed time with their family and driven to your house every weekend to provide whatever assistance you needed. Under these circumstances, you can explain that you are merely paying back that child for time and money spent.  In this situation, even though one may receive more than the others, they are essentially netting the same amount. 

In another situation, your children could be in completely different stages of their lives or with different abilities. You could have one with special needs, another who is a corporate attorney who never married, and the last is a typical middle-class American with a family of their own. Their income and requirements differ drastically, and you may want to ensure your money makes the most significant impact. If you are in a blended family, you might give your stepchildren less than your biological children based on the assets coming from each marriage. The number of reasons is endless, but they all carry the same theme: Make sure your children know what motivated you to draft your will in a certain way. 

Create Your Will with the Law Offices of Debbie J. Cunningham

At the Law Offices of Debbie J. Cunningham, we want you to leave your estate planning session with the confidence that you are prepared. We can guide you through some of the options or scenarios you may have overlooked, such as how to approach the subject of dividing your assets unevenly among your children. Commit to writing your will and contact us to schedule your consultation

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Law Offices of Debbie J. Cunningham

Debbie Cunningham is an Irving attorney providing affordable estate planning to the Dallas/ Fort-Worth areas. She understands the steps you should take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Debbie is family-focused and wants to ensure her clients are fully informed on the options that are available for their families. Debbie’s own blended family has given her valuable insights into the complexities of family dynamics.

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