It’s not uncommon for people to make bequests of unequal amounts to their heirs – usually after carefully weighing a variety of considerations, past, present, and future. But such decisions can lead to family conflict that lasts generations. Communicating these plans in advance, and getting feedback, whether one-to-one or as part of a family meeting, can help prevent future family ruptures.

After all, “’Inheritances are often seen as a proxy for love’” according to attorney Harry Margolis of Margolis & Bloom, as quoted by Susan Garland in yesterday’s New York Times. “’It’s hard to give unequal amounts and not have a child feel that Mom loved me less or more. Even an investment banker who doesn’t need the money has feelings.’”

Garland also spoke with Arline Kardasis, co-founder of Elder Decisions® (a division of Agreement Resources, LLC), who offered examples of how mediation can help.

“Kardasis mediated one case in which the father asked two successful sons how they would feel if he left a larger inheritance to a third son, who had financial and health issues. The two sons decided they would rather see their struggling brother receive more than possibly have him seek their financial help later. ‘Both brothers wanted to have a good relationship with their brother…,’ …Kardasis said.”

Read more insights from Garland, Kardasis, Margolis, and others, here:

Online: “The Unequal Inheritance: It Can Work, or It Can ‘Destroy Relationships’” – by Susan Garland, The New York Times, February 19, 2021

In Print: “Well, Mom Always Did Like You Better: If you plan to divide your estate unequally, explain the reasons to your children” – by Susan Garland, The New York Times, February 21, 2021, Section BU, Page 8 of the New York edition.

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