Unequal inheritance: it can work, or it can “destroy relationships”

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“She was not only getting the advantage of the bigger house, but she was exhausting the legacy,” Mr. Margolis said.

A better arrangement would have been if the girl had borrowed, say, $ 500,000 from her parents, signing a promissory note that forgives $ 100,000 a year over five years, Mr Margolis said. If the last parent died three years later, he said, the remaining $ 200,000 “would go against this daughter’s inheritance.” If the estate did not have enough assets to give his siblings their equal share, he said, “the daughter would have to find funds to make up the difference.”

Mr Margolis said families could avoid conflict by drafting a “personal care agreement,” which would describe the services a caregiver will provide and the type and amount of compensation, such as a loan to purchase a caregiver. house, regular payments or more. part of the estate. All siblings should be involved in the process, he said.

Sharing an estate can be particularly complicated in blended families. The growth of stepfamilies is one of the main reasons why the percentage of Americans aged 50 and over who left their children unequal bequests has more than doubled, reaching nearly 35% in 2010 from 16% in 1995. , according to to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“Parents without stepchildren were much more likely to treat all of their children the same way as parents with stepchildren,” said Robert A. Pollak, study co-author and professor of economics at the ‘University of Washington at St. Louis.

But the study also found that the longer the relationship, the more a parent would leave their stepson an inheritance equal to that of a biological or adopted child, perhaps reflecting a strengthening of ‘trust and bond’. .

If a parent, say the husband, in a blended family wants to protect their children from a previous marriage, it is best to avoid leaving all property to his wife in a will and hope that she will keep her promise to leave the remaining belongings to her stepchildren when she dies, experts say.


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