Family dynamics are often thrown into discord over money. In New York, parents understand that their estate plan usually contains the last message they will ever give to their children. When they leave unequal shares to their kids, that can fuel family squabbles.
However, some children can also feel resentment when those bequests are the same. It’s a matter of fairness. Parents may bequest lesser amounts to some, deducting financial help they’ve already given. On the other hand, they may give more significant amounts to children that they believe need more help.
Each of these reasons may be sound, but both may still cause family strife. It’s your money, and you can distribute it as you wish, but there are steps you can take to reduce potential disagreements. First, talk to your kids and see what they think. Opening your estate plan for discussion might reveal surprising answers.
For instance, a child with a substantial income might support giving more money to their siblings who make less. The high earner might want to receive a coveted family heirloom instead. Benefactors who avoid this awkward conversation may actually be setting up siblings for a fight later on.
Parents can also struggle over what to do with a family home or a vacation property. Some may think asking the kids to share the asset is the best route. However, having this discussion could also find a workable solution for everyone. The answer could be selling the property and sharing the proceeds, or one sibling may be more attached and can buy out the others. If they want to share the property, having a discussion sooner about how that would work can save time, money and anxiety.
An experienced estate planning attorney can help families work through these issues to avoid potentially damaging disagreements down the road. One final action is to draft a detailed letter as part of your estate plan explaining the decisions you’ve made, which can also head off any hard feelings.