Experienced Local Attorneys

Could unequal bequests make sense for your children?

On Behalf of | May 13, 2024 | Estate Planning |

When your children were small, they probably went through a stage where they critically examined everything they and their siblings were given to make sure they each got the same amount – whether that involved scoops of ice cream in a bowl or presents under the tree.

However, adults know that “equal” isn’t always the same as “fair.” When it comes time to divide up your estate and allocate your assets to your grown children, you may not want to split them equally.

Why parents sometimes choose to leave unequal inheritances

It sounds counterintuitive, but unequal inheritances to your heirs can actually be a thoughtful, strategic choice. Here’s why you may want to go that route:

  • You can acknowledge your children’s different life circumstances: For example, perhaps your oldest child is a wealthy CEO of a major corporation, while the youngest teaches elementary school. An inheritance could be life-changing for your youngest and its absence won’t substantially affect your oldest in any way.
  • You may focus solely on protecting a particularly vulnerable heir: If you have two self-supporting children and one with profound disabilities, pouring the vast majority of your wealth into a special needs trust for your disabled child can be the most sensible move.
  • You may wish to recognize a child’s sacrifices: If one of your children moved you into their home (or moved into yours) so that you had the care you needed during your waning years, those are invaluable contributions. You may wish to reward them with a larger inheritance in recognition of everything they did for you.
  • You can address past financial assistance: If you gave one child $100,000 to start a business, it may only make sense to consider that money a “loan” against their inheritance. In that situation, an unequal bequest can actually “even things out” in the interest of fairness.

Ultimately, your assets are yours to distribute – and only you can decide how they should best be distributed after you die. However, you may be able to alleviate a lot of family conflicts (and potential estate disputes) by explaining your decision-making process either directly to your heirs or in your final documents. Experienced legal guidance can help you learn more.