Leaving a Greater Inheritance to One Child Can Cause Conflict between Siblings

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Estate Planning Attorney

An adult child told me that her mother is thinking of changing her will because she now believes the daughter’s inheritance should be larger than her brother’s, because of all the help she gives her. She has lived with her mom for three years and her brother (who lives nearby) rarely does anything to help her. Mom is 82, in a wheelchair but mentally fine. Her current will splits everything equally between the daughter and him. Can she change her will at this point?

Because her mother is mentally competent she can change her will. But, she should proceed cautiously. If the family is typical, the brother may become angry over his lesser inheritance and make things unpleasant for his sister after mom dies.

Also, the daughter should take steps to make it clear she is not being influenced by the daughter to change her will. For example, the estate planning attorney she consults with should be selected by mom, not the daughter. If possible, someone else and not the daughter should drive mom to the lawyer’s office. The daughter certainly should not participate in the consultation, if possible but parents often want the children present for comfort and a better understanding of the lawyer’s advice.

Mother may also want to consider providing the daughter with some sort of compensation or a gift now, while alive as a (kind of) advance inheritance, with her will splitting equally the remainder of her estate. Experience unfortunately has taught me that a sibling may find that more palatable than an unequal distribution under mom’s last will.

To discuss your NJ Estate Planning matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.