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Do I have to leave equal bequests to all of my beneficiaries?

On Behalf of | Mar 31, 2022 | Estate Planning

If you have several children and grandchildren, it can be difficult to craft an estate plan that is fair to everyone. The last thing you want is to make some of your loved ones feel left out by overly favoring others. However, it’s not always an easy task to divide your estate into equal portions, especially when you have a few high-value items – such as homes, investment properties and vehicles.

When unequal bequests are okay

The first thing you should consider is whether it is worth the effort to balance out your bequests. In your particular situation, it may not be necessary. It all depends on whether you believe that your beneficiaries would accept an unequal bequest graciously, or if it would lead to sibling infighting and resentment.

For example, if you have one child who has a stable economic situation and earns much more than your other children, then that child may understand if you choose to leave a bit more to their siblings. Likewise, if you have a child who has made poor economic decisions or is in a position where a lump sum of money would do them more harm than good, it may be understandable that you would want to leave less to them.

How to balance out your bequests

If you have decided to make your bequests roughly equal, then you have a few options. The easiest solution would be to direct your executor to liquidate all of your major assets and distribute the proceeds.

However, often your beneficiaries would prefer to hold on to things such as houses for sentimental reasons. For this reason, having honest and open conversations with your beneficiaries before you die is beneficial.

If you find out what each of them values most, you may be able to find a compromise that works. For example, if one of them shows more interest in family heirlooms, then they may be willing to part with their fair share of the value of your house in exchange for a greater share of them.

The important thing to remember is that these assets belong to you. You have the right to establish an estate plan that will distribute them however you see fit. This means that, rather than allowing yourself to be swayed by feelings of guilt or an obligation to make things equal, you should bequeath your assets in a way that you feel is best for your family’s unique situation.