Parents who are considering leaving their children unequal inheritances often worry that doing so will result in hard feelings and tension between family members.

Parents have many good reasons for wanting to leave one child a larger inheritance than another child. The most common reasons being that one child needs the money more or that one child has already been given more financial support than his or her siblings. For example, one child may have had higher tuition bills or simply took longer to become financially independent. Maybe one child has become extremely wealthy (or married someone who is) while another is a starving artist.

Recently, Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary discussed these reasons and others, but faced some push back from readers. In particular, Singletary’s readers pointed out that children who receive a lesser inheritance than others often come to believe that their parents cared less about them or that the child felt they did something wrong and the lesser inheritance was a form of punishment. It is not uncommon for such scenarios to end in bitter disputes, leaving a fragmented family in its wake. Singletary responds with a plea to those who inherit less. She encourages them not to assume they were loved less by their parents, but to consider the valid reasons for inequality.

While that debate is interesting, there is another thing that needs to be pointed out. A lot of the problems that unequal inheritances may cause can be avoided with proper planning and open communication. Parents can discuss their estate plans with their children before they pass away and let the children know why there is a disparity. These crucial conversations may be uncomfortable, but an experienced estate planning attorney at Simmons & Schiavo, LLP would be happy to walk you through the process.

If you would like to discuss your estate planning concerns, please feel free to contact us at (781) 397-1700 or visit our contact us webpage.

Reference: Ventura County Star (Oct. 12, 2016) “Michelle Singletary: Will does not equal parental love.”