This is an article from the Law Offices of Cheryl David (http://www.cheryldavid.com/) in Greensboro, North Carolina, that we thought others may find helpful.
One of the most important issues confronting people who create estate plans is the question of how to give fair inheritances. After all, you don’t want to leave an estate plan that would cause strife or discord between your family members and loved ones, and leaving fair inheritances goes a long way in protecting family relationships. Today we are going to take a look at what you might need to think about when determining how best to leave behind fair inheritances through your estate plan.
Fair Inheritances and Money
When it comes to making choices about inheritances, distributing money is often the easiest to do in a fair manner. However, it’s important to note that fair doesn’t always equate to equal. There is no requirement, for example, that you have to give equal inheritances to each of your grandchildren or your children. As long as you determine for yourself what gifts you want to leave, ensuring that your wishes are carried out is usually easy to do.
Fair Inheritances and Personal Property
The question of distributing money in a fair manner is typically simpler than the question of distributing tangible personal property in the same way. What we’re talking about is all of the personal items that you collect over a lifetime, such as family heirlooms, collectibles, furniture, clothing, dishes, and everything else you might have.
Distributing these items in a fair and impartial manner is often more difficult than it might initially appear. For example, if you have a collection of letters that your grandfather wrote to your grandmother, how do you distribute these in a fair way? Do you give all the letters to one person, divide them up between different people, or make copies and distribute those?
While there are numerous ways to approach this issue, you should probably do so from a perspective of developing a fair method, instead of making individual decisions about each piece of property. For example, you can allow each of your family members to choose one piece of personal property they want at a time, and in a specified order. This way everyone has their own say about what they might like, and gets the chance to makes decisions about it.
Another way would be to allow your executor to determine a fair method, perhaps after discussing what the best way might be to distribute such property with those who are interested in it.
If all else fails, you can have your estate to use the services of a mediator to sort out any potential conflicts, or even direct that all personal property is liquidated through an estate sale or estate auction have the funds distributed evenly.