Could – or should – you leave an unequal amount to your heirs?

One of the most important aspects of your estate planning is to decide how much money to leave your beneficiaries, as well as how to divide the personal belongings you leave behind. Like many Detroit residents, you might wonder if it is acceptable to leave a greater amount to some of your loved ones than you bequeath to others.

The simple answer is that yes, you can choose to leave any amount – or none at all – to some of your relatives, and give a larger amount to others. In fact, states AARP, this type of will planning is frequently done. If you have one child who is doing well financially, but another who is struggling, you might choose to leave the less fortunate child a larger inheritance. You could leave a more sizeable amount to a child who provided caregiving services to you in your later years. There is a myriad of valid reasons you could choose to divide your estate unequally among your loved ones.

However, before you finalize your decision, you should think about how an unequal inheritance might make your relatives feel. Would it cause tension and hurt feelings between your children? Would some wonder if you loved them less than the ones who received more? One solution might be to tactfully make your reasons known in a letter included in the will, or by telling your children personally. An alternative could be to begin gifting your relatives their inheritance while you are still alive. Another option would be to divide your estate equally, but set aside a portion in a trust fund to be distributed to your heirs in specific emergency situations.

It is important to understand that will planning often contains some type of emotional element, and it is not always positive. By planning carefully and letting your loved ones know your reasons and intentions, you may help them avoid family disputes later. This information, however, should not be substituted for legal advice.