What to Do If You Want to Leave Your Children Unequal Inheritances

Although parents typically want to leave equal shares of their estate for their children, there are cases where equal isn’t fair. It’s important to carefully prepare if you want to provide more or less for one child in your estate plan.

There may be a number of reasons a parent would want to leave unequal shares for their children. For example, if one child provides all of the caregiving, a parent may want to leave more for that child. Also, if one child is substantially better off than the other child, their parent may want to provide more for the child in greater need. Other factors can also come into play, such as if one child has special needs, if one wants to run a family business, or if parents have already helped one child more during their lifetime by funding things such as graduate school or the purchase of a house.

It is important that, no matter what your reasons are, that you sit down and have a conversation with your children about these reasons for leaving unequal shares for them and explain your process for making this choice. If you believe this could be a difficult and tense conversation, it may help to hire a mediator to facilitate this discussion.

Hopefully your children will be understanding and accepting of your decision without challenging it. However, if you are worried about a child challenging this choice, here are some additional steps you can take:

·        Work with an estate planning attorney to draft your will and be sure it is properly executed. Do not involve your children in this process in order to avoid potential accusations of undue influence.

·        Explain your reasoning in great detail in your estate planning document, making clear that this is a decision you are making and is not influenced by the child who will receive more.

·        Include a no-contest clause (known also as an “in terrorem clause”) in your will. If an heir challenges the will and loses, a no-contest clause makes it so that this heir will receive nothing. In this case, you’ll want to leave enough for the other heir so that a challenge isn’t worth the risk of the inheritance they would lose.

For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.