When bequeathing to sibling children, remember that sibling disputes are extremely common. If you think about it, sibling disputes may have been festering since childhood. When you factor in the emotional turmoil after a parent’s death, combined with events that may have transpired over the years, there’s a more than likely chance that serious relationship damage can happen due to stipulations of your last wishes. You can help avoid all this with the following tips from elder law attorneys Beasley & Ferber.
Be Transparent About the Distribution
To avoid sibling disputes after the fact—and to iron out disagreements ahead of time—be transparent about what your will or trust specifies. Bring everyone together in person or on Zoom and share the document. Tell everyone in your own words what you plan to leave to whom, and why. You aren’t required to do this, but it would be an act of parental love that could help to avoid any sibling squabbles after you’ve passed.
Reconsider Distribution Percentages
Many times, parents purposely give more to one child than another. Reasons vary but may include judgment about who deserves less, who is a higher earner, or who has more mouths to feed. This kind of last judgment can leave a sour taste in the beneficiaries’ mouths. Your assets are yours to give as you see fit, but in the interest of sibling harmony, consider bequeathing your children equal shares. If assets are split up between real property and cash, you could leave instructions for the executor to assess fair market values and ensure that each child gets an equal allotment.
Introduce “Hidden” Children
Life is messy, and sometimes there are children from previous marriages or relationships that are unknown to siblings until after the Last Will and Testament is read aloud. This kind of surprise isn’t easy to bear and can lead to lots of unanswerable questions and resentment. That’s not the kind of legacy that most parents want to leave behind. In a situation like this, it’s usually best to “come clean” and introduce—or at least, divulge the existence of—hidden children. Doing so will help siblings to come to terms with another beneficiary who is to share in their inheritance.
In the chance that divulging the existence of children from a past relationship isn’t on the table, another option is available. You can include a personal letter in your final documents that explains the other child and the pertinent circumstances. At least this way your children will have answers that can help them to understand your reasoning and why you made bequests the way you did.
Contact Us for Assistance with your Estate Planning
Elder law and family estate planning in New Hampshire are the areas of expertise of Beasley & Fisher. Come to us with all of your estate planning needs, no matter the size of your estate. We are available for consultations, document preparation, and asset allocation. Contact us today to schedule an estate planning appointment or to request a copy of our free estate planning guide.