New York parents often want to ensure each child receives an equal share of their estate. Sometimes, however, this isn’t advisable or even possible. In such cases, they should consider their options and communicate their intentions to their children.
Reasons for dividing an estate unequally
There are several reasons why parents may leave differing inheritances to their children:
- Heirs may have different financial needs. One adult child may have a high-paying job, while another may have a more modest income.
- An heir may have a disability that requires costly services and care.
- The parents might have assets, such as real estate or a business, that can’t easily be divided.
- One or more heirs may have a history of irresponsible spending or substance abuse. Parents may not want to fund that child’s lifestyle or dangerous habits.
- One child may be the primary caregiver for aged, ill, or disabled parents. The parents may want to give that child a larger portion of their estate.
Estate division strategies
Many estate planning tools and strategies can help when you need to decide on the division of your estate. Trusts, for example, can be used to ensure that an heir doesn’t frivolously spend an inheritance.
In the case of a family business, it may be possible to leave the business to the child who has expressed the most interest in the company while giving other children cash bequests or naming them as beneficiaries on their life insurance policies.
Communicating your intentions
Open, honest communication with family members is essential to estate planning. By explaining your intentions to your children, you can help ensure that your wishes are carried out after you die in these ways:
- Your children will know what to expect. No unpleasant surprises could further complicate their grief after your death.
- Because your heirs already know about your estate plan, they are less likely to challenge your will. Challenges to a will can negatively affect your children’s relationships with each other.
- If your children disagree with your plan, they can voice their concerns and preferences, letting you work things out as a family.
Dividing your estate between your children can be a difficult task. Understanding your options and communicating your intentions can help ensure that your wishes are carried out after you die and that your children are provided for.