12 Legit Reasons To Leave More Money to One of Your Kids Than the Others

Fair doesn’t always mean equal, especially when it comes to dividing up your estate.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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While the ideal scenario is to love and financially support your children equally throughout their lives, inheritance can introduce complexities for many families.

Adult children often face different financial realities, with some needing a helping hand to get out of debt or support their families, while others may be financially secure.

Here are some reasons you might consider leaving a larger inheritance to one child than the others.

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Health issues

Jose Luis Stephens/Adobe disabled man visiting bathroom with dog

Chronic or prolonged illness can severely impact a person’s ability to work and provide for themselves. 

If you have a child struggling with a chronic or devastating illness, it may make sense to leave them a greater portion of an estate to help care for them or offset the challenges they may face.

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Education

NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe grandparents playing with grandchild

Higher education costs continue to rise. If you have minor children when you create your will, you might want to stipulate funds be directed solely to help pay for their education.

Many people also allocate money for the future education of their grandchildren. If one child has more children than another, you may give that family more money.

Sentimental

Irina Schmidt/Adobe boy playing piano in living room

We can't take it with us when we go. Some assets, though, hold incredible sentimental value. Assets can be sold and the proceeds divided among your heirs. 

But if one item holds special meaning for one of your children, they will likely prefer the item over the monetary value.

For example, if you own a baby grand piano and only one child plays the instrument, leaving it to them in the will makes sense, especially if it's the piano they spent hours of their life playing on.

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Divorce

sek_gt/Adobe hand holding broken heart pieces outdoors

Divorce can be devastating for families and leave couples in emotional and financial ruin. Often, the female spouse suffers financially, especially if she has been a stay-at-home parent.

Parents of a divorced child may want to help mitigate those circumstances by leaving additional funds or assets to a child who is struggling to rebuild post-divorce.

If parents want to shield their assets from an in-law in case of divorce, they should consider creating an inheritance trust to ensure any inheritance goes only to their child.

Substance abuse

BillionPhotos.com/Adobe prescription pills spilled from bottle

Leaving a significant sum of money to someone struggling with substance abuse problems could result in unintended consequences. 

Access to a windfall may lead to an overdose or death. Parents may want to limit the amount they will to children who may squander their funds.

Addictions

Dani D.G/Adobe prescription pills spilled from bottle

As with a child who may be a substance abuser, a child who suffers from an addiction may not benefit from unexpected money.

Taking into account the needs and abilities of all your children, including their ability to manage their lifestyle and funds responsibly, should guide your decisions.

Special needs

Krakenimages.com/Adobe down syndrome woman holding apple donut

Children with special needs encompass a range of abilities and lifestyles. If you have a child who can't care for themselves throughout adulthood or live independently, it makes sense to make sure their life is planned before worrying about your other children.

If your child qualifies for state or federal benefits, leaving them a large inheritance could impact their assistance. A financial advisor could help determine the best course of action.

Minor children

Azee/peopleimages.com/Adobe kids using tablet with grandparent

If you still have minor children at the time of your passing, you'll likely want them provided for until adulthood—even if it means their older siblings get less inheritance as a result. 

You may even stipulate that one of their older siblings becomes their legal guardian, in the event of your passing.

Caregiver

RFBSIP/Adobe caretaker looking after senior woman

If you live near one child during your golden years, they'll likely become your caregiver. Even if that's not your intention, typically, the child that lives physically the closest ends up shouldering the biggest caregiving burden. 

Despite having other children, you might desire to compensate the caregiving child for their time and commitment to you during the last years.

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Family business

marvent/Adobe businessman discussing work at office

Family businesses can muddy the waters when it comes to inheritance. If your business employs one but not all of your children, splitting it among them evenly could lead to resentment. 

If the child working for you wants to maintain the legacy and business, it’s logical that you would allow them to continue to run it, even if that meant your estate wouldn’t be split evenly.

Monetary support

IVASHstudio/Adobe father walking bride down aisle

If you've contributed a significant amount to some of your children, such as a wedding, grad school, or down payment for a home, you may offset that cost against their portion of your estate to help make things more even among them. 

This is especially true if you've already promised funds to provide those same contributions to your other children.

For example, you've told each child you will give them $20,000 for their wedding, but only one child has married. It makes sense that you would allot $20,000 for each of your other children in your will, even though that makes the total amounts different.

Stepchildren vs. biological children

Konstantin Yuganov/Adobe family reviewing budget together

Blended families are a common reason inheritance may not be equally divided. Typically, people desire to leave their funds to their biological children. 

However, there may be instances where a parent leaves the majority of funds to their biological children while allocating smaller portions to their stepchildren.

Bottom line

Alexandra W/peopleimages.com/Adobe senior couple consulting female finance advisor

Open communication is key to navigating the complexities of family dynamics, especially when finances are involved. 

By having conversations about your estate plans with your loved ones while you're still here, you can reduce money stress, foster understanding, and ensure a smoother process for everyone involved.


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Author Details

Holly Humbert

Holly is a writer who recognizes that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to personal finance. She is passionate about entrepreneurship, women in business, and financial literacy. With more than four years of experience, her work has been featured on MarketWatch and The Ways to Wealth.