If you ask potential beneficiaries if they think their parents are going to split up their estate evenly, most of them may say that this is what they expect.
However, studies have recently found that unequal bequests are growing more common and are used much more than people realize. In fact, some reports claimed that more than a third of all parents who have currently made an estate plan – and there are certainly many people who do not yet have a plan in place – are going to use unequal bequests.
Positive and negative reasons
One thing to remember about unequal bequests is that they don’t necessarily have to be negative. People often imagine that parents have become estranged from their children, for instance, or that the two had a falling out. That child is being left a smaller portion of the estate because of these negative events.
But the opposite could be true. Maybe one beneficiary has had greater financial success than their siblings and has no need for any monetary support from their parents. The parents may decide to leave unequal bequests, giving that person less than their siblings just because they know that the siblings will benefit from it more.
Could this cause disputes?
Of course, these types of decisions do make it more likely that estate disputes will occur. Heirs may be unhappy to receive unequal amounts. This is why it’s good for parents to understand all the legal options that they have and to have conversations about their decisions in advance. Transparency in estate planning can help to reduce the odds of a dispute.