No, parents do not have to divide their assets evenly among their children when creating a will. Although it is common to do so, there are no laws entitling each child “to get their share.” Lawyers encourage families to seek expert guidance with estate planning early on—and to work out conflicts and hard feelings before it is too late.
Work It Out While You Can
Estate planning experts underscore the importance of having conversations, even challenging ones, with loved ones while there is time to do so. Though not all relatives may agree with the decisions in a will, understanding the intentions can lead to honoring them when the time comes. As Tampa Bay Times points out:
Sometimes parents have good reasons for leaving one sibling a greater share of their estate. For example, if one child cared for them in their later years or one sibling has greater needs than the others, a parent may choose not to distribute things evenly.
It’s possible to contest a will during the probate process after someone dies, but this is an uphill battle. Usually, you’d have to prove that the person lacked the mental capacity to make or change their will, or that they signed the will because of fraud or undue influence. You can also argue that the will wasn’t properly signed or witnessed in some cases…But disputing a will is a long and expensive process. Most people who mount a challenge will lose.
Securing expert legal guidance early on in the process of estate planning can help ensure sound decision making and clear documentation of wishes and intentions, which can be useful in curtailing conflict later. While advising on wills, attorneys can also provide guidance on selecting the executor who will administer it. Typically the executor is a family member or friend, but there are no rules requiring adherence to this tradition. Executing a will can be a time consuming and detail-filled undertaking, so it is important to select someone who has the ability and diligence to see it through, following the state’s probate process. If families anticipate conflict, an attorney may recommend selecting a neutral party as the executor or even securing a professional fiduciary.
Requiring an executor bond upon creation of a will and designation of the executor can be very helpful. Sometimes these bonds are specifically requested during the probate process. Essentially, an executor bond guarantees the faithful performance of the executor on behalf of the estate and beneficiaries and in accordance with the law. Colonial Surety Company makes it quick and easy to get an executor bond: get a quote online, fill in the information and enter a payment method. The bond can then be e-filed or printed from anywhere—even before leaving the law office.
Good To Know
Keep in mind that some assets, such as life insurance policies and IRAs, are passed forward via beneficiary designations—not the probate process. Accordingly, it’s also critical for families to periodically review and update these designations. Births, divorces and deaths are often forgotten in terms of updating beneficiary forms—resulting in heartache later. Similarly, given the current disruptions in the job market, it’s extra important to take the forms we fill out when we start or leave a job seriously. Retirement accounts are more important then ever, since we are living longer and life insurance can be a tremendous asset for loved ones—assuming we have correctly listed and updated the beneficiaries.
Colonial’s direct, fully digital, user-friendly I-Bond® system reduces the time, hassle and expense typically associated with antiquated bonding processes. In addition to providing bonds directly to the general public, Colonial offers The Partnership Account® for Attorneys. This free business service provides user-friendly client management dashboards, enabling attorneys to easily coordinate, view, complete and e-file the court and fiduciary bonds clients need. See for yourself today: The Partnership Account® for Attorneys.
Founded in 1930, Colonial Surety Company is a direct writer of surety bonds and insurance products. Colonial is rated “A Excellent” by A.M. Best Company, U.S. Treasury listed, and licensed for business everywhere in the USA.