In the movies, siblings fight over their inheritance money, claiming that they deserve more than others for various reasons. This usually happens when the finances are distributed equally or when one sibling gets more than the other/s. If you predict this scenario happening to your children upon your death, hence you wish to disinherit them instead, will that work?
If your solution is to pass down heirlooms in hopes of preventing sibling rivalry, that may not help you either. Even if that heirloom has been with the family for multiple generations now, children don’t want it. If they accept it, chances are they’d sell it or store it somewhere unseen. Why? Because they don’t have a purpose for heirlooms like antique furniture, vases, books, etc. — unless they like collecting stuff like those.
So what can you do if you’d really rather not give them your money?
If sibling rivalry is the only reason you have for disinheriting your children, identify what will cause that rivalry. Is it because one child thinks they alone deserve the money? If that’s the case, try to see from that child’s perspective. They might be right because their siblings are terrible at managing money, for instance. Hence, giving all your money to the deserving child will ensure that your finances will not go to waste.
The same outcome can occur if it’s a business you’re planning to pass down. Here’s a sample scenario based on a real-life situation: Shirley (not her real name) opened a bagel shop in the 1980s. When her shop boomed, she spent her profits on her children and grandchildren until she passed away. Her estate plan left most of her business to one child, who became the least qualified to manage the business. Shirley’s other children disputed her will, but to no avail. In the end, Shirley’s business had failed and was sold for scraps. Just like that, her legacy is gone.
If one of your children reasons out that they deserve the inheritance money because they can make it grow, listen to them. Don’t agree at once, but hear them out. If you can really see that they can uphold your legacy, have your trusted lawyer make some changes in your estate plan.
2. Take a Risk
Some parents want to give inheritance money to their child but feel like it’s not yet the time for that child to hold a large amount of fortune. For example, you have two children, and one of them is an alcoholic. You think the inheritance money can help your alcoholic child start anew. But it may also enable their addiction further. So you decided to give all your money to their sibling.
In your will, you can state that your other child shall legally receive all the inheritance money. It’s up to them when to give their alcoholic sibling their portion. They’re also free not to give their portion at all.
This approach is risky, but it can work in motivating your alcoholic child to seek treatment. You can give an ultimatum saying that they’ll only get the money if they sober up. However, if you’ve already passed away, your ultimatum might pass on with you. It’s either your alcoholic child never recovers, or their sibling denies them their inheritance even if they’ve already sobered up.
Luckily, you can minimize such risks. Require your children to consent to the validity of your will because this will allow your alcoholic child to contest the will if a problem arises.
3. Give a Gift
Gifting assets is a good way to use your money if you don’t want it passing your children’s hands. Gifts have tax benefits, often called “annual exclusion gifts.” They are completely tax-free.
There are some limitations, though. For the tax year 2020–2021, the annual exclusion is $15,000. A separate exclusion should apply to each child to whom you give a gift. And the children who received gifts will be subject to capital gains tax.
4. Donate Your Money to Charity
If nothing can change your mind about disinheriting your children, donate your money to a charity you’ve always supported. It’s also an amazing way to leave your legacy. You can rest assured that even in death, you’re still helping people in need. The charity may even invest your money to grow their organization. Plus, bequests made to charities aren’t under any limitations and are deductible from ordinary income.
Love your children equally, but treat each of them uniquely. You can still love them and not give them your hard-earned money. There are other ways to show them your love and leave them your legacy, such as teaching them a lesson on managing money and other assets.