While you may love all your children equally, you may not feel that they should receive equal inheritances once you pass away. If one of your children earns less than their siblings, you may want to leave them a greater share of your assets to provide them with stability. Or, if they have special needs, you may need to set aside the bulk of your estate for their care. Conversely, if one of your children has addiction or gambling issues, you may want to leave them a smaller inheritance than their siblings.

No matter your reasons for leaving your children unequal inheritances, you are likely concerned about how your decision will impact them. It is important, then, to prepare for the possible outcomes and communicate your intentions openly.

The potential pitfalls of unequal inheritances

People will often leave their children equal inheritances – even if it is in their best interest not to – because they fear the alternative will cleave their family. When siblings receive unequal inheritances, resentments may abound – and relationships may fracture. In some cases, the sibling – or siblings – who feel wronged will contest a parent’s will or trust, which can create even more legal and financial headaches.

To prevent potential contests, you may want to include a no-contest clause in your will or trust. This clause provides that, by making a contest, your child will forfeit their right to their inheritance if they lose. As effective as it may be from deterring legal action, it could lead to further tension within your family.

The importance of an open dialogue

The easiest way to avoid a family feud after you pass away is by being upfront with your children about your intentions during your lifetime. They may bristle when they find out that you plan on leaving them unequal inheritances. Yet, you may be able to calm them down by explaining your reasoning. So long as you have decent relationships with all of them, they may be more likely to understand that your wishes are not a sign of favoritism. If your children have any major concerns about your decision, an open discussion will allow them to bring these up.

Accounting for your children’s unique needs in your estate plan can be challenging. By consulting an attorney, you can find a way to do so that minimizes the chance of conflict among your family.