A Commitment

to Each Client.

Unequal bequests are becoming more common

When someone leaves unequal bequests in their estate plan, it simply means that they are leaving different amounts to different children. For example, someone may have three children and $1 million to split up. Rather than dividing the sum in thirds, they give half of the money to the oldest and the other 25% to each of the younger children.

Between the late 90s in the end of the 2010s, the rate at which unequal costs were given out essentially doubled. It seems that there has been a big change in how parents look at equality in their estate plans. Why may this have happened and what impact is it going to have?

There are many different reasons

Many people assume that unequal requests are given out because the parent is that odds with one of the children. That person gets less money because they are estranged from the family, for example, or because their parents simply don’t approve of choices they’ve made. In this way, the unequal bequests are looked at as something of a punishment, intentionally discriminating between children.

But this isn’t always how it happens. There are also cases where parents are just trying to be realistic. For instance, the child who gets the least amount of money may also be the child who is financially stable on their own. The other children may struggle with money a bit more, so the parents simply know that they will have more use for financial assets that they are lacking. The child who is well-off doesn’t need those assets as badly, so they get less, but it’s not a punishment.

This can cause disputes

One of the big ramifications of an unequal bequest is that it increases the odds of an estate dispute. It doesn’t mean that a dispute is guaranteed, but it’s more likely when the heirs are not given roughly the same amount of assets.

For example, leaving less money to one child may cause that child to make a claim of undue influence. They’ll say that they should’ve gotten the same amount, but the other siblings manipulated you so they could get more. This may not have happened, but the difference in bequests can at least spark the dispute.

As you can see, estate planning like this is far more complex than many people assume, and it’s very important to know exactly what legal options you have.

FindLaw Network
LCA Litigation Counsel of America Fellow
ACTEC The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel
My Estate and Legacy Planner