925.244.1185
San Ramon, CA

Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Monday, July 26, 2021

How Can I Keep My Kids From Fighting Over Their Inheritance?

Even siblings who got along during your lifetime might become estranged from each other if they fight over their inheritance. With a little guidance, you can avoid situations in which your children become enemies for life. A California estate planning attorney can talk to you and suggest specific things that you can do in your unique situation to keep your kids from fighting over their inheritance.

Do Not Play Favorites

Many parents have a favorite child, but some do not bother to conceal their favoritism from the other children. The other children likely carry old hurts from this treatment. Their sense of unfairness will be compounded if you treat your favorite child better in your will than the siblings.

Let’s say that you have four children. One of the best ways to prevent sibling squabbles or knock-down, drag-out fights and litigation after you are gone is to leave one-fourth of your net estate to each child. It is hard to argue against equal treatment.

Of course, there are some circumstances that might make you consider a less-than-equal distribution. In these situations, you have options. For example, if you have a disabled child, you could set up a special needs trust. Just be aware that the remaining money will go to the government, not the surviving siblings, when the disabled child passes away, to pay back the public assistance the child received during his lifetime.

Here are some reasons that parents give to justify unequal inheritance treatment of their children:

  • One child has been more successful financially than the others. If you leave that child less money in your will, the successful child will feel that you are punishing them for working long hours and getting an education and rewarding the siblings for being less motivated or not managing their money well.
  • One child struggles with poor money management habits, gambling, or substance abuse. The solution to this issue is to create a spendthrift trust that prevents this child from running through his inheritance quickly.
  • You simply might not like one of your kids, or you had a falling out. Equal treatment in the will could be an effective way to mend those bridges and send a message of forgiveness or apology.
  • If you have no interest in that child’s feelings, it could help if you consider that a will contest will be expensive for your estate. Your other children will get less money at the end of the litigation, and they will have to wait longer to receive the reduced amount.

These are but a few of the fact patterns that can cause a parent to consider treating the children differently in a will or trust. It is not a good idea to use your will or trust to “punish” some of your children.

Be Open with Your Children About Their Inheritance

Real life is not a television reality show. Your death is not the time for dramatic surprises. If you want things to be happy and peaceful in your family when you are gone, make sure that your children have a rough idea of what to expect.

Many people end up filing lawsuits out of shock at the contents of the will, even though they would have accepted the terms if they had known about them beforehand. A will contest could get filed because one of your children suspects the will is a fake due to the surprising inheritance proportions.

Be Mindful of Who You Choose to Serve as Your Executor or Trustee

If you are not going to treat your children equally in your estate planning papers, one of the worst things you can do is make one of the favored children the executor of your will or trustee of your trust. Having the child serve in that position will add insult to injury to the other children.

Even more damaging is when the will or trust places considerable discretion over the distribution of assets in the hands of that child. The other siblings will likely feel that the favored child was in a position to make more fair distributions but chose not to undo the unequal inheritance.

A California elder law attorney can answer your questions about how to avoid causing your children to fight over their inheritance. Contact us today.


Archived Posts

2021
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2020
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2019
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2016
2015



© 2021 Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning, Inc. | Disclaimer
2333 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Ste. 145, San Ramon, CA 94583
| Phone: (925) 244-1185

Elder Law | Estate Planning | About

Law Firm Website Design by
Amicus Creative