When parents in Maryland create an estate plan, they may do so with the expectation that they will divide their estate evenly among their children. However, that may be easier said than done.
For example, what if one child earns a significantly higher income than another child? What if the parents gave one child a loan during their lifetime? In these situations, is a 50/50 split still fair? This is a very difficult question to answer.
Unfortunately, in situations like these, grieving heirs may fight over who is entitled to what after their parents die, even if their parents left a detailed estate plan with regards to their assets and personal property. There are, however, some steps that parents can take when trying to fairly distribute their assets between their children.
First of all, it's important to remember that in most families, children expect fair treatment. For the sake of family unity, it is important that all children understand why parents created their estate plan in the way that they did. Moreover, parents should keep the goal of family unity in mind when they create their estate plan.
Parents can create different types of trusts that allow children to have different amounts of control over the distribution of assets. It may also help to designate a neutral trustee, so that the children do not fight over how the trust assets are being handled, thus protecting everyone's interests.
Each family's situation and dynamics are rarely black and white. There are a lot of points to consider when dividing one's estate between one's children. Parents will have to consider whether gifts or loans made during their lifetimes were meant to be part of that child's inheritance and they will have to decide whether it is right to leave one child a bigger inheritance than another. In the end, parents should strive to create an estate plan that is fair or at least as fair as the situation can be.