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Dividing an Estate Unequally

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Over the nearly two decades I have spent working as an estate planning attorney I’ve heard numerous questions from clients about how to divide their estate among their children. Most recently, the question that seems to arise is whether a client can divide their estate unequally among their children. This question has come up for many reasons. Consider the following scenarios:

• Suppose you have two adult children. One is a teacher at an elementary school. The other is a dentist. The amount of money that each of these children makes in income is quite different.

• Alternatively, suppose that you have three children that are adults. Two of your three children are self-sufficient and are providing for themselves and their families. Your third child however suffers from addictions to drugs and alcohol. This child has struggled to provide for himself all of his life.

• Another common situation that arises is when a parent has two or more adult children. One of the adult children lives close to the parent and provides a good deal of help, and care as that parent ages. The other children live further away and are unable to provide the same kind of care and help.

While each of these scenarios is different they could all result in you deciding to divide your estate unequally among your children. There are three specific things that you should consider if you are thinking about dividing your estate unequally. These three things are:

It’s Your Estate and it Can Be Divided Any Way You Want

The first thing you need to understand is that your estate is yours. This means the property and/or money that you own in your estate belong to you. You are free to give any item of property or any amount of money that you own to any person you choose either while you’re alive, or after you die, through your written Last Will and Testament. There is no law that requires you to give any percentage or amount of your estate to any person, including your children. In fact, if you choose to, you could disinherit a child completely from your estate.

Talk to Your Children

The next thing for you to consider is that if you do decide to divide your estate unequally among your children, then you should talk with your children about this while you are alive. If you don’t talk to your children about this, the child receiving less may believe that the child who is receiving more convinced you, or influenced you to make the distributions unequal. This could result in hard feelings between your children.

By talking to your children you make it clear that the decision to divide your estate unequally is yours alone. If the child who is receiving less has questions you can answer those. In this way you can be proactive in dealing with the emotional results of dividing your estate unequally before you die. This lessens the likelihood that your children will feel badly towards each other after you are gone.

Work with An Estate Planning Attorney

The final thing to think about if you decide to divide your estate unequally is that you should consult with an estate planning attorney. To divide your estate unequally you will need to be very specific about the money or property you are leaving to each of your children. The language that you use in your Last Will and Testament will control every aspect of the division of your estate. If you use the wrong words, or make it unclear or confusing about how your estate is to be divided, this could lead to a legal fight between your children about what your intentions actually were.

Dividing your estate unequally among your children is a right and an option that you can use if you choose to. If you have any questions about how to divide your estate among your children, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at lve@racinelaw.net. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.