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Unequal bequests could increase the odds of estate disputes

If you are writing an estate plan, you are not obligated to make things equal. There is no legal requirement to leave the same amount of assets to all of your beneficiaries. If you want, you can certainly use unequal bequests.

Although it is definitely up to you what you do with your estate, it is also worth noting that using unequal bequests may increase the odds that your beneficiaries will find themselves engaged in a dispute. This type of estate planning can increase conflict between beneficiaries and family members. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but just that you need to plan in advance and consider all of the potential ramifications.

Why do these disputes happen?

In many cases, estate disputes happen just because people are unhappy with the outcome. Three siblings may have assumed they would all get the same amount of money. When one person gets significantly less than the other two, they feel frustrated and slighted. They may be tempted to challenge the estate plan just because it didn’t give them what they wanted or expected.

There can also be issues regarding intent. For instance, the person who received less may claim you never intended to reduce their portion. They may claim undue influence altered the estate plan and compromised its validity. 

All of these disputes happen after you pass away. So, while you may have intended to use the unequal bequests, they can still lead to an estate dispute in the future. That’s why planning in advance is so important. You can leave documentation clearly showing that the estate plan was written as you intended, and you can talk with beneficiaries so that they know what to expect. Carefully consider all of your legal options as you go through this process.