Should You Leave Siblings Unequal Shares of Your Estate?

When you’re reviewing your estate plan, it’s important to think about how to divide your estate among your children. While you don’t need to leave siblings equal shares, be aware that inheriting unequal amounts can cause arguments among
children after you pass. To avoid disagreements from the get-go, you may want to leave your children equal shares.

If that is your goal, remember to consider any property or accounts you hold jointly with each child. Jointly held property or money passes outside of your estate. That means if you have listed a child as a caregiver on a bank account, or you jointly hold property with one child, it will pass to that child alone at your death. The same rule applies for a “pay on death” account. If you don’t want one of your children to get a bigger share of your estate, be sure to add a provision in your estate plan indicating that property passing to one child through joint tenancy is an advancement of that child’s share.

You can also choose to leave each child a different share. Perhaps one child has a disability and requires more for the future, or maybe you want to give a bigger share to a child who serves as your caregiver. If you choose to give different amounts, include a provision in your estate plan explaining the reason for your choice. Make it clear that the choice was yours, not the decision of the child receiving the larger share. The more clearly you can explain yourself in advance and in your documents, the better. Otherwise, one of your children could attempt to challenge your will.

Work with an estate-planning attorney to decide how to handle dividing an estate and to determine any needed provisions.