Is it possible to leave family members an unequal inheritance?

In some cases, someone planning a will might decide to leave someone out or leave them less. This should be done carefully to avoid disputes.

When putting together a will or trust, New York residents can choose to make their estate planning as complex or simple as they wish. They have the right to leave their belongings and assets to the loved ones they please, which includes being able to give more to one person and less to another, if they wish. It is also possible to leave someone out of the will entirely.

However, disinheriting a family member or leaving heirs unequal amounts may lead to hurt feelings and family arguments. It is important to carefully consider the right wording for a will, so that relatives will be more likely to understand the reasons for leaving an inheritance that is not equal.

How common is it to leave an unequal will?

AARP states that there are many reasons to divide an estate unequally or to leave a family member out, including the following:

  • The grantor of the will does not wish to leave an inheritance to someone with whom there was an argument or falling out.
  • An adult child has been more successful than the others and does not need a larger inheritance.
  • A family member already received a large portion of the estate while the grantor was alive.
  • The parents wish to compensate an adult child for providing caregiving assistance to them in their later years.
  • The grantor wishes to leave monetary amounts to some relatives and property or personal belongings to others.

How does one leave different amounts to loved ones without causing hurt feelings and family arguments? It may help to try to imagine how those in the will might react to receiving the news. There are also a few alternatives to leaving property in a will, according to CNBC. Rather than waiting until after death to divide the estate, parents might begin gifting their belongings and assets to their loved ones when they are still alive, making sure to retain enough to live comfortably. In this way, they can see their relatives appreciating their inheritance. They might also leave relatives an equal amount of the inheritance and create an emergency trust fund for specific purposes.

If someone is to be left out or left less, careful wording should be taken in the will. For example, parent might state that their youngest daughter is not receiving any inheritance because she was argumentative with the family and caused too many disagreements. It might also be stated that one child is receiving less because he or she is successfully running the family business or became wealthy on his or her own. It would also be wise to consider that circumstances are often not permanent, and a family member who is well off now may be facing a challenging financial situation in a year or two. Therefore, an equal inheritance may both be fair and avoid an inheritance dispute.

When a loved one’s will is read, it is often an emotional time for family members. Usually, the grantor has no intention of causing hurt feelings. An experienced Brooklyn estate planning attorney may be able to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that the grantor’s wishes are kept.