When creating an estate plan, the notion of “fairness” can keep parents up at night. No parent wants his or her estate plan to cause feelings of bitterness—or worse, a trip to the courthouse.
But what can a parent do to leave an inheritance that everyone is happy with?
A recent article in AARP outlines several steps that you can take to ensure that your estate plan doesn’t result in unhappiness among your family.
- Communicate openly to manage expectations. What do your children or other family members expect to get from you? If their expectations are way off base, this could cause issues later. While you don’t have to outline your financial situation down to the last penny, you should let them know what they can expect. That being said, make sure to let them know that your situation could change, e.g. if you have to pay for your or a spouse’s medical care.
- Divvy up your estate as equally as possible. This part of estate planning can be tricky, but doing it right can avoid hurt feelings and fighting down the road. This applies not only to the contents of your bank account and sentimental trinkets but also to responsibilities. Appointing a child or family member as the person responsible for settling your affairs is a statement of who you think is trustworthy and capable. If possible, give responsibilities to each person that is capable.
- Make sure that you are the one doing the distributing. Some well-meaning parents try to make things easier by appointing one child as the beneficiary of an account and trusting him or her to distribute the contents. This decision can be a big mistake. It can breed resentment for two reasons. One, the child chosen as the beneficiary may be seen by the others someone you trusted more. Two, the beneficiary may not distribute the contents as you wished.
- Explain any discrepancies in giving. It’s worth being said that your estate is just that: yours. You have the right to make the final say in where your hard-earned assets go, and you likely have good reasons for dividing your estate unequally. Perhaps one child earns more than the other and needs less as a result. Whatever the reason, make sure that you explain yourself. You can write a note to go along with your estate plan that explains your reasoning behind each inheritance. This can help alleviate hurt feelings and avoid arguments.
If you have any questions about leaving inheritances and estate planning as a whole, please feel free to contact the experienced probate attorneys at our Huntsville office.