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Experts: unequal inheritances are perhaps logical, but not smart

Your daughter just paid cash for the biggest, most luxurious house in Cocoa. She is a surgeon, stand-up comedian with a series on HBO and an astronaut. Your son, on the other hand, just got fired from his job as a greeter at a big-box retailer and says he wants to move back into your basement with his wife and four kids.

It might seem perfectly logical that as you sit down with your estate-planning attorney that you give unequal inheritance to your offspring. After all, your son has greater needs than your daughter, right? However, many financial advisers say leaving unequal shares to your children in your Florida will can create problems that will haunt your heirs for years.

"In my opinion, unequal inheritances can be toxic," said one adviser quoted in a recent news article. He added that unequal shares can condemn “the children to a lifetime of painfully awkward Thanksgiving dinners."

A California wealth strategist said it might make more sense for parents to help offspring in challenging financial circumstances with assistance that doesn’t include cash gifts.

"For instance, giving them a loan to buy a house at a very low interest rate,” he said. "It helps balance the scales without some of the problems of leaving more to one child or the other."

Of course, leaving equal amounts in your will can also reduce the likelihood of a will contest after you are gone – events that can lead to irreparable damage to sibling relationships.

You can discuss with an experienced attorney your many options, including the advantages of irrevocable trusts, living wills and other estate planning tools that will protect your heirs and assets.

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