Parents usually want to leave their children equal shares of their estate, but equal isn’t always fair. If you plan to provide more (or less) for one child in your estate plan, preparation is important.
It is natural for parents to want to treat their children equally in their estate plan, but there are some circumstances in which a parent might want to leave children unequal shares. If one child is providing all the caregiving, the parent might want to reward that child. If one child is substantially better off than another child, then the parent might want to provide more for the child who has a greater need for the funds.
Other factors that can influence how much to give each child is if one child has special needs or if there is a family business that only one child wants to be involved in. It’s also possible that the parents have already provided more for one child during their lifetime, maybe by paying for graduate school or helping them buy a house.
Whatever the reason for leaving your children unequal shares, it is important to discuss your reasoning with them. Sit down with them and explain your decision-making process. If you feel like the conversation could be difficult and contentious, you could hire a mediator or a therapist to help facilitate the discussion. Depending on your family dynamics, you may want to have this discussion with each child, individually, or together as a family.
Your children may be understanding of your decision, but if you are worried about one child challenging your will after you die, you may want to take additional steps:
- Draft your estate plan documents (will and trust) with the assistance of an attorney and make sure it is properly executed. To avoid accusations of undue influence, do not involve any of your children in the process, especially if that child is the one being treated more favorably.
- Explain in detail your reasoning in your estate planning documents (will and trust) and make it clear that it is your decision and not the influence of the child who is receiving more.
- Include a no-contest clause in your will and trust. A no-contest clause provides that if an heir challenges your estate plan without probable cause and loses, then he or she will get nothing. However, you must leave the heir enough so that a challenge is not worth the risk of losing the inheritance.
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