Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Creating an estate plan has a tendency to be a stressful task since it forces a person to confront, among other things, the ever troubling issues of death and taxes. But one issue that is sure to create extra worry in when the estate will be divided unequally among heirs. Sometimes the reason is pragmatic, such as the extra need of one would be heir, and other times it is based on personal issues between the testator and would be beneficiary. In any event, there are certain steps that can be taken to lessen the worry of future challenges to the estate. One popular method is to not completely exclude a person that would traditionally have an expectation to inherit by giving them a smaller share with an express statement that the act was deliberate. But the best way to avoid problems is to open about the intention to have an uneven distribution. Explaining the rational behind the move will give the diminished party a chance to understand why the change occurred and give them a chance to voice their opinions. While steps such as these are not guaranteed to prevent an eventual challenge they can help reduce the risk.
See Nancy Perez, Voices: How to Advise Clients on Unequal Distributions to Heirs, The Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2016.
Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.