You have spent your whole life accruing wealth and putting together a portfolio of assets that you want your family to be able to benefit from after you are gone. You love all of your children equally, and you want your wealth to make their lives better. However, that does not necessarily mean that you have to leave them each perfectly equal portions of your estate. When is it tolerable to leave unequal bequests to your beneficiaries, and what are the risks involved in doing so?
Your children have different goals
Unequal bequests are more common than you might think. Customizing your bequests makes sense when you consider that siblings often have radically different mindsets and priorities. For example, let’s say you are leaving behind ownership of a business that you have painstakingly built up from nothing over the course of your career.
One of your children might be interested in carrying on your legacy and taking the helm of that company, while your other children might prefer to sell the business and divide the proceeds. If you’d prefer to keep your business in the family, then an unequal bequest might be your only option.
Avoiding inter-sibling resentment
In cases like this, it’s not always possible to balance out your bequests. Even if you leave the other children with valuable assets such as your home or vehicles, it might still form resentment. All too often, this type of resentment leads to things such as lawsuits challenging the will by casting doubt as to the testator’s testamentary capacity or alleging undue influence.
Even if no lawsuit springs forth, inter-sibling resentment could still result in feuding and tense relationships. It’s a sad truth that, unless the siblings understand why their parents chose to leave unequal bequests, resentment and jealousy can tear a family apart when they should be coming together to grieve the loss of their loved one together.
As such, it may be best if your bequests do not come as a surprise to your children. Having an open conversation about your estate plan while you are alive can help to assuage some resentment and clear up any misconceptions as to your intentions. If you can get your children on the same page, they’ll be less likely to argue once you are no longer with them.