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When to Adjust an Estate Plan

Charles S. Liberis Sept. 15, 2017

When people think about a “fair” division of assets in the context of an estate plan, they may believe that each beneficiary must receive an equal, proportionate share of what is left. However, this may not always be the case. More importantly, it may not be appropriate for the respective beneficiaries.

The story of two brothers who were heirs to a business owner's estate exemplifies this notion. The father, who was nearing retirement, believed that his idea of dividing shares between his sons could create tension between them given the disabilities one son had, and the business experience the other son had. In order to be eligible for the Medicaid benefits the disabled son could take advantage of, he could not have any significant assets; hence the arrangement.

To resolve the situation, the parties called a family meeting to discuss their options. As it turned out, the disabled son was not as concerned about owning a piece of the business, and was content to have an opportunity to work within the business. He also trusted his brother who had a great deal of business experience.

With that, the business owner was able to create an estate plan that left his business to one son, while leaving a larger share of his life insurance proceeds to the other son.

When sibling rivalries and expectations threaten to derail what is otherwise a solid estate plan, sometimes adjustments can be made to ensure that all parties are taken care of. If you have questions about how to divide assets equitably, an experienced estate planning attorney can help.