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

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 and clarity are 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. For example:

  • If one child is providing all the caregiving, the parent might want to compensate 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. 
  • If one child has special needs a parent may need or want to provide differently for that child. 
  • If there is a family business that only one child wants to run, an unequal distribution may make sense.
  • 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, the important thing is to discuss your reasoning with the children. 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 to help facilitate the discussion. 

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 will and estate plan with the assistance of an attorney and make sure it is properly executed. 
  • Explain in detail your reasoning in your estate planning document. 
  • Include a no-contest clause (also called an “in terrorem clause”) in your will. A no-contest clause provides that if an heir challenges the will and loses, then he or she will get nothing. If you must leave the heir enough so that a challenge is not worth the risk of losing the inheritance, they may be less likely to challenge the will.

Remember, the clearer and more transparent you can be about your reasoning, the less likely your loved ones will be in conflict and/or be left with deeply hurt feelings. At Linville Law, we understand that every family situation is unique, and we strive to tailor every estate plan to your specific needs. We're conventiently located in south Charlotte and available to meet in person or vitually. 

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