Most parents instinctively think that they should divide their estates equally between their children. For most families, the instinct is a good one and the best way to divide parental property between children. However, many families might want to consider unequal divisions between children. It can be appropriate in some situations.
If one child has special needs, that child might need a larger portion of the estate to adequately provide for his or her continued care after the parents pass away. Other families might have one wealthy child and one child of lesser means. In still other situations, one child may have invested “sweat equity” into the family farm or business. Or, parents might have given more to one child during their lifetimes than they gave to the other children. This often happens when one child struggled in life or needed extra help to start a business or get over a period of financial hardship. All of these situations are appropriate situations for parents to divide their estate unequally between their children.
If you are going to divide your estate unequally, make sure that you talk to the children about it while you are still alive, especially to any children who will receive lesser portions of the estate. The reasons for unequal division are not always as obvious to the children as they seemed to the parents. Telling the children the reasons helps avoid family arguments over the unequal division.