Dilemma: should I leave one child more money in my will?

Katharine Whitehorn / 12 May 2016

A reader is considering altering his will to favour his daughter, who is financially more worse-off than his son.

Dilemma: should I leave my daughter more of an inheritance than my son?

My wife and I have been married for 47 years; I am almost 70 but still work more or less full-time. 

We have two married children, who each have two teenagers. Our daughter lives very close to us and we have almost daily contact with her and her family. Our son lives in the north but we see him fairly regularly because he comes here on business; we rarely see his wife and sons unless we visit them. They do visit friends living very close to us, but never come to our house.

Our existing will details an equal split of our estate between both the children, but we are considering changing it to give a greater proportion to our daughter, since our son is in a better financial situation than his sister. 

A fringe concern of ours is the effect that it may have on the relationship between our son and daughter when we both die.

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

I can see why you want to leave more to the family that has been so close and helpful to you; but there are complications you might want to consider. At the moment your son is better off than his sister, but this could change – he might fall ill or lose his job, and the various teenagers coming on-stream might need different things.

You could, perhaps, raise the matter with your son – not suggesting he’s neglecting you (which would only make for bad blood), but pointing out the difference in financial circumstances, and see how he feels about it. 

Many children would certainly feel aggrieved to miss out on an inheritance they’d always counted on; you might be able to tell from his reactions whether he would be one of them. Safest, certainly, to go on helping your daughter while you’re both alive, and keeping the 50-50 split in place.

Related: read more of Katharine Whitehorn's answers to dilemmas

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