The only way to ensure that assets are divided the way you would like them to be is to draft an estate plan.
Individuals who die intestate — that is, without a will — leave everything up to the state in which they reside.
“In New York, if you die without a will and leave behind a spouse and kids, your spouse gets $50,000 plus half of the balance, and what’s left is split evenly between the children,” said Radigan.
Indeed, there are situations where a 50-50 split between beneficiaries may seem fair on paper but aren’t in reality.
Let’s say that a married couple runs a family business, and it makes up the majority of their wealth. One of their three adult children is actively involved in that business, but the other two aren’t.
In this case, the business owners can opt to purchase life insurance to help make the two less-involved children whole, or they could give them a nonmanaging interest in the business, Radigan said.
“Treating them fairly might be different from treating them equally,” said Radigan. “Minimizing the estate taxes is the easy part, but the hard part is the family dynamics.”