A worry that aging people frequently express when considering estate planning options is how best to distribute their assets among their heirs. There are numerous factors that go into this decision and it is often connected to need vs. fairness. For example, the parents might have more than one child with one being highly successful in an endeavor and the other still struggling to find his or her way. Deciding how to divide the estate is a common source of acrimony. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder and it is beneficial for a person to have legal advice as well as practical advice when determining how to divide assets.
When an estate plan in formulated, the idea of many testators is that there be a fair allocation and any relationship between the heirs not be poisoned by ongoing battles as to who got what and whether it was justified. Grudges are a common issue if the distribution is unequal and can result in court disputes that can lead to a depletion of estate that they are fighting over to begin with. People who are planning for a future after they have gone reserve the right to do as they see fit with their assets. That said, there are certain matters that should be weighed. This can be dealt with through a meeting with family members detailing the plan.
The following should be considered with such a meeting: legal assistance is essential so the beneficiaries understand that this is not something to take lightly and it is recorded in the event of disputes; clarity and steadfastness can avoid the inevitable attempts to sway the parents; having a firm base in legalities and rules as to how the assets are distributed can stop confusion; and a “no contest” clause can end the very idea on the part of the heirs that this is a matter up for debate after they are gone – it is what it is and that is it.
People who are moving forward with estate planning do not want to have to wonder whether their decisions will be called into question from the time they formulate and complete the document until after they have passed on and it is supposed to go into effect. Having a cohesive plan with help from a qualified lawyer can avoid the worst-case scenario and give the heirs not what they want, but what those making out the document want them to have in the distribution of assets.
Source: Forbes, “Aging Parents, Entitled Kids, Unequal Inheritance: Recipe For Fights,” Carolyn Rosenblatt, May 4, 2017