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When a parent wants to leave more to one child than another

There are certain family situations that may lead New Yorkers to want to leave their children differing amounts of their estates. This may be because the parent is closer to one child than the other, or one may simply be less financially established and need more help than the other one.

Leaving children different amounts of assets in wills can lead to significant conflict after a parent dies. The child who receives the lesser amount may challenge the will's validity in probate court. If the contest is successful, then the court may disregard the will and pass the estate's assets according to the intestacy laws of New York.

Parents who wish to leave different amounts to their children may want to make certain they include clear language indicating their reasoning directly in their wills. If it is possible, they may also want to explain their plans and the reasons for them to all of their children so there are no surprises. Parents also can establish living trusts to pass assets to their children according to the terms of the trust documents. Doing this can avoid the probate process, which is public and can often be lengthy and expensive. As distributions can be made during the settlor's lifetime, beneficiaries won't be taken by surprise as they might be when the contents of a will are revealed.

Most people want to avoid causing family disputes after they pass away, and thus estate planning attorneys will often suggest to their clients that a meeting be held with all family members so that they can get a general idea of what to expect from the documents that are being prepared. It may also be better to appoint a neutral third party as the executor under a will rather than a family member, which can also cause strife.

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