Inheritances: Honoring Wishes, or Equalizing Value Among Beneficiaries?

by TTMK on March 26, 2012 · 4 comments

Divide an Inheritance Equally?

How do you feel about siblings getting different amounts in an inheritance?

It’s a topic I’ve gone through before, more specifically the notion of being a decision maker in such a circumstance. Meaning, should one give more to one child versus another? Definitely a controversial subject, with people having strong opinions either way and at different points in between. What about when one of your kids gets more money in an inheritance than another?

A friend of mine dealt with this situation when his in-laws passed away. He has two kids, a boy and a girl. Both loved equally, with no visible reason for either kid to be cared for more than the other. Both cared for their grandparents very much, from what I would assume.

Anyway, when the grandmother – the mother in-law of my friend – passed away, she ended up dividing up the inheritance between her kids and her grandkids. She apparently gave everybody something in the will. However, what she gave wasn’t in equal amounts.  She gave my friend’s family a little bit more than the other families. That causes a bit of consternation and hurt feelings between the siblings.

However, what was an issue in his household was his daughter getting more than his son. Apparently, each child got a sum of money that was intended to be used for their college education when they get older. However, the daughter also got a fair share of her grandmother’s jewelry. This was apparently worth more than just a few thousand dollars, as my friend indicated that it made the total value of what their daughter received to be much higher than what their son received.

His question is: should they adjust the cash amounts each kid gets, in order to account for the extra value that his daughter got in terms of jewelery?

The intent is to get the total value of what each kid “receives” to be closer to equal. The thinking is that kids should be treated the same, and that they don’t want any hurt feelings when the young kids get older. They want harmony in the family, and the kids to both have great memories of their grandparents.

The thing is, while he wants to do this, his wife is more inclined to keep the gifts as they are.

Personally, I side with his wife. My reasoning is that while we strive to treat people equally, there are sometimes where circumstances are what they are. In this case, a grandmother gave some jewelry to her granddaughter instead of the grandson because it seemed more appropriate.  Why not just leave it as is, and honor her wishes? After all, she couldn’t have intentionally tried to limit gifts to the boy, right? At least that’s what I would think.

What Do You Think?

If you were in that situation, as the parent of those kids, would you handle it the way the guy wants to or how his wife wants to?

What is your reasoning behind your opinion?

Have you ever seen any situations where there have been family controversies over inheritance-related matters?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle March 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

There have been several problems in my family with inheritances, and right now I’m in a huge problem. I would rather not fight and just give it all away (that way I know who is truly my family and who is not). Sadly, my mother would rather choose the money, and I have not talked to her in months because of this.

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TTMK March 27, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Michelle – sorry that, there have been such problems that you’ve dealt with. These things can cause hurt feelings and frustration with people. I hope it ends up working out okay for you and you can be content with the outcome.

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Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter March 28, 2012 at 1:27 pm

My parents have been great in making sure everything is a 50/50 split. I am not too concerned about it though because I don’t rely on getting an inheritance. In fact if they spent the money on themselves I would be fine with that.

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TTMK March 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Miss T – self-reliance is the safest approach. Then, if anything happens inheritance-wise, it’s a bonus.

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