Parents who are making an estate plan sometimes assume that they need to leave equal assets to their children or other beneficiaries of their choosing. But this is especially an issue with direct heirs because those adult children may also expect that the estate is going to be divided equally.
But the reality is that parents can certainly choose to use unequal bequests. In recent decades, these have actually become more common. Rather than just making a very basic will instructing the estate executor to divide everything evenly, people are putting time and effort into figuring out the fine details of exactly how they would like assets to be distributed.
Is this always a negative event?
No, unequal bequests certainly don’t have to happen for a negative reason. There are cases in which parents will leave someone out of the will or leave one child far less than their siblings because they’ve been estranged or for some other negative reason. But there are also very positive reasons, such as recognizing that a financially successful child may not have as much need as his or her siblings.
Can unequal bequests cause complications?
Yes, unequal bequests can lead to certain complications. Often, they increase the odds of an estate dispute. This is especially true if children believed that the bequests would be equal and they are surprised to find out that they’re getting less than someone else. They may feel that this is unfair or react emotionally, assuming that favoritism or even undue influence impacted the estate plan.
As a result, if you do want to use unequal bequests, it’s very important to understand exactly what steps to take to set your estate plan up properly.