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Can You Make an Unequal Distribution in Your Estate Plan?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an estate planning attorney for more than 20 years, one of the things I try to help my clients understand as we are creating their customized estate plan is that they are able to make distributions in any way that they would like. In other words, there is no law, or rule, or requirement that a person must make some sort of fair, equitable, or even distribution to their family members.

Through our knowledge and 70 years of experience our team of Idaho estate planning attorneys are able to provide advice and counsel the distributions you would like to make as part of your own written Idaho estate plan. Each of our lawyers has been around for some time. This alone is not enough to qualify us to be considered one of the premier estate planning and probate firms in Idaho. Rather, it is our experience and knowledge that gives us the ability to help our clients with their questions and concerns, including the distributions that are made in a will.

Because estate planning is personal, and because it is the personal property of the individual who creates it, it can be individualized in any number of ways. In other words, when there are good reasons to do so, a person can make an uneven distribution in their last will and testament. Additionally, a person could all together disinherit or exclude some person or a group of people from their estate as well.

The purpose of this article is to provide just a few examples of when this could be a good idea. Keep in mind that this article is not designed to be exhaustive on this topic. Rather, if you have questions about making an uneven distribution in your own estate plan, we encourage you to talk to a qualified Idaho estate planning attorney to get the help you need to do it right.

One Family Member May Need More Than Another

One of the first reasons that many people will make an uneven distribution through their estate planning is when there is a family member who has more need that another one. In other words, if you are a parent and you have four children, it’s possible that one of those children could have a greater need for money, property, or other assets than the other children.

However, we encourage parents to think about more than just need. We also encourage parents to think about the effect an uneven distribution could have on their children after they are gone.

We also encourage parents to think about giving part of their estate to their children they are alive. A gift given from a parent to a child while the parent is alive has way more meaning and can often enhance a relationship that can be enjoyed for the remainder of the parent’s life.

A Family Member May Suffer From Destructive Addictions

Another reason that a need for an uneven distribution may exist is when you have a family member who suffers from some sort of destructive addiction. In other words, consider what would happen if you had a child who was an alcoholic or a drug addict and you left a sizable amount of money or property to them as part of your estate plan. It’s more than likely that the money or property you left for this child would be used to further their destructive addiction.

A parent could specifically exclude or disinherit a family member who suffers from these kinds of addictions. Alternatively, a parent could create one or more trusts that are specifically designed to care for their family member who has the addiction without giving any money, property, or other assets from the estate directly to this family member after the parent has passed away. In this way, the trust can continue to provide support and help to this family member without enhancing or encouraging their destructive behaviors.

A Family Member May Have Disabilities

Yet another reason that could exist for an unequal distribution exists when you have a family member who suffers from a disability or handicap. We’ve found that in many of these instances the individual with a disability is receiving governmental benefits from some sort of federal, state, or local governmental agency. If that person were than to receive a sizable amount of money or assets from an estate, they would lose those benefits.

To preserve those benefits and to continue to provide support for this family member, a parent can choose to use a supplemental needs trust. This simply means that the individual does not receive an inheritance directly from the parent when the parent passes away. Rather, the money or property that is left to that individual actually goes into a separate trust. This trust is then used to supplement the needs of the individual who is receiving the benefits so that those benefits will not be lost.

The short answer is that you have the absolute ability to make unequal distributions to your children or family members if you choose to do so. There are often good reasons why this needs to be done. We have helped numerous clients who have made this decision for various reasons including those that are listed above. If you have questions or concerns about making an unequal distribution to your children or family members, we are confident that we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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