There are lots of reasons why we might not want to divvy things up evenly--reasons beyond dis-inheriting a badly behaved child. A friend, recently divorced, has three children--two daughters, one son. She wants to leave the bulk of her considerable estate [the divorce agreement left her very comfortable financially] to her daughters. The reason is simple: The son has hit it rich in a business he runs with his father. He has no need for a share in his mother's estate. The daughters are both struggling financially--one in a low-paying but rewarding job; the other as a stay-at-home mom with four children and a husband who, says Will-Writing Mama, will never earn a lot of money, at least not by the standards of the family.
Her mind is made up, and she had a plan to explain it to her son--later, in a letter that would accompany the Will and be read when she passes on.That's when her estate lawyer gave her a solid piece of advice: Give her son a heads up in advance. She's working on it--by writing a letter he can read now that explains it all and makes clear that this has only to do with his financial success and nothing to do with the son's partnership with his father.
That's one way to handle the decision to disperse unevenly. In answer to a similar issue in Social Qs, Philip Galanes suggested the legacy-leaving parents have a heart to heart talk with the child whose financial success is so much more secure that her sibling's. "Talk with her privately," Galanes suggests, "and say: 'We always imagined leaving our money to you and Bobby 50-50. We love you both. But you’ve become so successful, and Bobby really needs our help. How would you feel if we left him a bigger piece of the pie?' Then listen." It's the dialogue you open that counts, Galanes says. And he adds one additional point to make to Super-Successful Child: "Be clear that if anyone’s circumstances change, your estate plan will, too."
Solid advice. The money in our estate is ours to disburse as we see fit, but we don't want the sharing of our wealth to create ill feelings between siblings--or a grudge against a demised us. The reality is that one child may not need the money where the other does, but being unprepared to be read out of a Will can lead to unintended and unhappy consequences. Besides, as Galanes put it, "the sanest people can go bonkers where cash is concerned."