There are potential consequences that extend beyond hurt feelings when parents leave one child more than others in a will. One of the main consequences is potentially leaving an estate plan vulnerable to legal challenge.
Of course, there can be a number of very good reasons for unequal distributions. One child may be much more successful financially than others; one child may have chosen a philanthropic career that will never pay much monetarily but still makes a great contribution to the world. Parents may be estranged from one child; one child more than the others may have assumed the burden of care for aging parents.
Whatever the reason for an uneven distribution, there are ways to do it in order to protect a last will and testament from being challenged in a court of law:
Explain the disparity – the best path is to explain to children exactly what your will includes while you are still alive, but many parents find this too difficult. So explain it in your will.
Prove your capacity – Write a letter or make a video to accompany your will that explains your decision-making process. If you make a video, be sure to consult with your Orange County estate planning attorney beforehand.
Make gifts now – Making gifts while you are still alive will help the children who need it most and you can then make even distributions in your will for after you are gone.
Keep your will updated – Drafting a series of new wills over time with slightly different language but the same basic provisions shows that you have reviewed your will and that your intentions have remained the same over time.
No-contest clauses – You can add no-contest clauses in your will that will in effect disinherit those who contest your will in court.
The Flanigan Law Group provides Southern California residents with personal attention for estate planning, administration and litigation legal services. When disputes between families, arise, they are very successful in resolving legal estate issues quickly and efficiently while preserving financial and emotional resources. Contact the Flanigan Law Group at 949-450-0042.