Many parents opt to divide their estates evenly among their adult children. However, the law doesn’t require that parents divvy up assets in this manner — or that beneficiaries share their assets with other family members. In fact, a number of families find themselves dealing with issues resulting from uneven inheritances. According to a recent survey, among siblings who argue about money, 70 percent of the disagreements stemmed from parental issues such as uneven inheritances.
In some cases, parents opt to remove one child from the will entirely. Other times, parents may split up various assets, giving one adult child the house and another the contents of a bank account. Finally, parents may leave everything to one child, assuming they will share the estate equally with their siblings.
However, Arizona law does not require a beneficiary to share their inheritance with siblings or other family members. In other words, parents who want to ensure their children inherit equally should be sure to state this preference in their wills.
Do Parents Have to Include Children in Their Wills?
There are many reasons that parents may not treat their adult children equally when writing a Will. In some cases, parents opt to provide the lion share of their estate to a child who has less of their own wealth. At other times, parents disinherit a child because of interpersonal disputes. It’s important to know that the law does not require Arizona residents to treat adult children equally. To disinherit an adult child, parents can simply state their intention to do so in a will.
On the other hand, state law does protect minor children from being disinherited. Additionally, certain legal protections exist to stop people from disinheriting their spouses. In most cases, married people are entitled to some degree of compensation after a partner’s death.
Can a Sibling Sue for More?
Just because the law permits parents to disinherit adult children doesn’t mean children have to accept this decision without objection. If you’re the beneficiary of a parent’s will, your sibling or siblings can sue for additional money or property, provided that there’s a valid reason for contesting.
One of the most common reasons that siblings contest a will is because of undue influence. In other words, a sibling tells the court that they believe a parent was manipulated in the process of creating a will. A sibling can accuse you, the beneficiary, of convincing your parent to disinherit them and leave you the majority of the estate.
Additionally, siblings can attempt to recover lost inheritance with a lack of capacity claim. This argument is rooted in the idea that the creator’s decision-making ability was compromised as a result of age, illness, or mental health issues. To win these cases, your sibling will have to prove that a parent had material functional impairment due to their condition.
What If There’s No Will?
Inheritance cases can get even more complicated in cases where a parent dies without leaving a will. Under these circumstances, the court will apply the default laws of intestate succession for the state in question. In most non-community property states, children have inheritance rights in the event that their parent dies.
Creating a clear and thorough will is the best way to ensure your assets go to the desired beneficiaries when you’re no longer around. Similarly, having a will can help prevent your beneficiaries from dealing with claims from other possible inheritors.
Trust JacksonWhite With Your Estate Planning
Estate planning is complex, and families are often at a loss when it comes to determining the best way to protect their loved ones. The situation can get even more complicated in cases where parents prefer that siblings not inherit equally. Luckily, David Weed and the rest of the attorneys at JacksonWhite Law are there to support you every step of the way. Whether you need help creating a will or trust or navigating inheritance law, our knowledgeable team is in your corner.
Call our Arizona Estate Planning team at (480)467-4325 to discuss your case today.