For many people, the main beneficiaries of their estate plans will be spouses and children. For others, their grandchildren may be the ones to whom they would like to leave property when they die.
You may not fully understand probate laws, which might make you think that your children have a statutory right to inheritance that you would violate by leaving assets to your grandchildren. However, that is not the case in Rhode Island unless you die without a will.
Whether you choose to leave assets to your grandchildren or not will be a personal decision based on your wishes and family relationship.
When grandchild inheritances make sense
There are numerous circumstances that might lead you to want to leave assets for your grandchildren directly. You might leave them some property while leaving other assets to your children, or you might choose to skip a generation and you plan your estate and leave nothing for your kids.
Some people leave assets for their grandchildren because they have already helped support their children, who are now educated professionals. Others have a difficult relationship with their children and feel closer to their grandkids. There are even those who worry that a child with a history of substance abuse or gambling would waste an inheritance, leaving nothing for the next generation.
You can potentially exclude your children or limit what they receive for the benefit of your grandchildren, but if you choose to do so, you must proceed carefully.
Jilted children may challenge your wishes
The biggest concern about reducing what your children inherit or disinheriting them in favor of your grandkids is the possibility that your children might challenge your estate in probate court. You can reduce this risk by directly discussing your decision to limit their inheritance in your will or using a trust as the main instrument through which you pass assets to your family.
When your estate documents make it clear that you did not forget your children but excluded them intentionally, they will have a harder time contesting your wishes. In general, trusts are more difficult for people to challenge than simple wills. You may be able to prevent your children from dragging your estate through probate court by talking with the entire family about your wishes and the reason you made those choices.
Recognizing when it is it good idea to leave an inheritance to your grandchildren and taking the right estate planning steps to make those wishes a reality can help you leave the most meaningful legacy for loved ones.