When individuals are deciding who will inherit from their estates, it is important to consider a series of questions. The first question to answer is how much should go to heirs and how much should go to charity. Once that ratio has been determined, it may be worthwhile to talk to all beneficiaries to let them know how much they can expect to receive.
Will heirs get money or other assets outright or will the be put in a trust? Putting assets in a trust may be the better idea if beneficiaries may struggle to manage their own finances. Those who will be receiving a portion of an estate should also know ahead of time whether they will be getting cash, real estate or other assets.
Good communication can smooth over any emotional wounds that heirs may deal with if they feel as if they have been snubbed. Telling them how the decision was made may help everyone stay on the same page. In some cases, assets may have a higher sentimental value to one heir over the other or may be a bigger burden than a benefit.
While an individual doesn't want to create family infighting, there may be legitimate reasons for dividing an estate in an unequal manner. An estate planning attorney may be helpful in creating an estate plan that stays true to an individual's wishes. By drafting and helping to update relevant documents, the last wishes of an individual may be able to withstand legal challenges after death. If gifts are given from an estate before passing, an attorney may be able to help those stand up to legal challenges as well.
Source: Forbes, "Estate Planning 101: Picking Your Heirs ", Larry Light, September 24, 2014