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Ask Marilyn: How to Divide an Estate Unequally
Marilyn Hickey of San Diego, California, writes:
Marilyn: Three heirs have to divide an estate of $300,000. One of the heirs had previously taken an asset valued at $66,000. The will reads that the heir is to have his share reduced by $66,000. So the shares would would be $100,000, $100,000, and $100,000 less $66,000. Where does the $66,000 go? To the other two? Or should it be divided by three? Or is there another way?
The $66,000 should be divided by three, and $22,000 should be given to each of the three heirs.
Here's why: If the $66,000 asset had not been taken from the estate, it would have totaled $366,000. Each heir would have received $122,000. But one heir already has $66,000 of his share. So he should receive $56,000 ($122,000 - $66,000) now. The other two heirs should receive their full $122,000. ($122,000 + $122,000 + $56,000 = $300,000.)
In other words, one heir gets $100,000, another heir gets $100,000 and a third heir gets $34,000 ($100,000 less $66,000). Then the $66,000 is divided by three, and $22,000 is given to all three heirs. They wind up with $122,000, $122,000, and $56,000 (plus the $66,000 asset equals $122,000).
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