If you live in California and plan to distribute your assets unequally to your children in your will, it’s best to give them advance warning. Siblings don’t always get along, but you don’t want your uneven disbursements to splinter your family irreparably. Call a family meeting to explain your decisions and address any concerns.
Compensation for caregiving
It’s not uncommon for one child to assume the role of caregiver for elderly parents. They may act as the primary chauffeur, cook and companion, asking for nothing in return except a smile. You might justifiably leave them a larger share of your estate.
Disparate financial situations
Children take different paths in life and achieve different degrees of financial stability. One of your offspring may love children and choose a life as an underpaid teacher while another may become a wealthy stockbroker with an extravagant lifestyle. Perhaps a disproportionately larger inheritance for the dedicated teacher is not unwarranted.
You might feel closer to your offspring than your stepchildren, particularly if you played no role in raising them. They may understand this and have no issue receiving a limited share from you, especially if they expect to benefit from their birth parents’ will.
Chronically ill or otherwise disabled children may need care for their entire lives. You can create a special needs trust that manages and disperses the funds without affecting the beneficiary’s ability to receive federal assistance. It’s understandable if the money in this account exceeds the other siblings’ shares.
If you have favorite charities, you can make lump-sum distributions or establish an income-producing charitable trust to provide allocations for years. This decision might not please your entire family if they don’t support your causes, but it’s your money, and you can do whatever you want.
It doesn’t mean you’re being unfair if one child receives a more substantial portion of the estate. However, discuss your desires with your family so they understand your reasons and, hopefully, accept them with good grace.