Millions of British parents favour one child over others in their wills, with 40 per cent leaving their children to find out which inherited more until after the parent has died.
Some 10 per cent of parents gave a greater share of their estate to an individual child over their siblings, and 5 per cent went so far as to cut out children completely from any inheritance – doing so without any prior warning and instead leaving their entire estates to partners or spouses.
Researchers found that the most common reason parents divided their estates unequally was that they had a closer bond with a particular child. Many also feared that a sibling would be irresponsible with the inheritance. The survey of 2,000 people conducted by the national law firm Slater & Gordon also found that parents often took the view that one of their offspring needed greater financial help, but there were also indications that bitter family feuds coloured parental decisions.
Some 40 per cent of parents said that they had not discussed their inheritance decisions with their offspring. A fifth of respondents said that they were reluctant to have that discussion because they feared that doing so would create arguments or resentment among their children.
“For many people writing a will is both a private matter and a morbid topic – not something that parents want to discuss with their adult children,” James Beresford, head of wills at Slater & Gordon, said. “While having such conversations can take courage, families that speak freely about these delicate issues can avoid problems and surprises down the line, particularly if assets are not being split equally between children.”
Unequal provision in wills can lead to inheritance disputes which are always best mediated before costs rise and relationships are damaged.