Thursday, December 12, 2013

How can siblings be sure they will inherit from mother?

Lynn A. Dean
With estate planning, I am often asked this question and each person’s situation is unique.  For example, mom has three daughters. According to her daughter, the trust leaves everything to them in equal shares. She asks, “If one of them were to die, who inherits their share? Does it go directly to her children or to the husband and, after his death, to his kids?”

The answer always depends on the trust's language. For instance, it might state: "I leave everything to my three children in equal shares. If one of my children does not survive me, the share shall be distributed to her children in equal shares, at age 25. The mom would be the one to designate whether she wanted everything to go to her daughter's spouse, her children or both.

In my practice, the most common decision is to leave the inheritance to the children rather than the spouse. The reason: Most people assume that a surviving spouse will remarry, and they prefer to see their inheritance stay within the family.

If the children are still young, the trust typically states that the money stays in the trust until they reach a specified age. With inheritances for minor children, the trust also should name who will be their trustee. It could be the children's aunts or uncles (the deceased parent's siblings) or it could be the child's living parent.

The bottom line is that an inheritance can be left to anyone we desire. You will need to read your mother's trust to see what she designated. 

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