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Why unequal bequests can cause estate disputes

On Behalf of | May 4, 2023 | Estate Planning

Establishing unequal bequests means that you are simply leaving your heirs different asset values in your estate plan. This has been something of an emerging trend over the last few decades. It’s becoming more common for people to do it, rather than leaving the exact same totals to everyone named in a will or trust.

There are certainly reasons that this approach can be beneficial. Maybe you know that one of your heirs needs extra financial assistance, for instance, so you want to provide it for them. Maybe you’re worried that an heir will waste a large inheritance, so you want to leave them less. There are good reasons to leave unequal bequests, but it is also important to remember that they can cause estate disputes if they are not handled thoughtfully.

Complex family structures

One thing that sometimes happens is that people with blended families do not treat all of their children the same way. Stepchildren may not be given as much as biological children, for instance. This can lead to conflicts between two different groups of adult children who are joined by marriage, but who may not have grown up together.

Parental favoritism

Another issue that sometimes arises is that children will think that their parents favored a sibling. Maybe a younger sibling always felt like the older sibling was the favorite, even when they were kids. If that older sibling then receives more money in the estate plan, it feels like confirmation of this suspicion. Remember that sibling rivalry doesn’t necessarily end simply because people grow up.

Fraudulent estate plans

Finally, unequal bequests can sometimes lead to accusations of fraudulent activity. Maybe the person who received more money was also the one who lived closest to an elderly parent and had the most frequent access to them. Will other siblings allege that they used undue influence to change the estate plan? Even if that did not happen, the mere fact that people have received different amounts can lead to suspicions and accusations.

Exploring your options

As you make your estate plan, you certainly want to avoid disputes. Seeking legal guidance to better understand all the legal options you have to achieve your goals can potentially help you to do just that.

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