When inheritance goes beyond sibling rivalry

I’ve just found out that my brother is set to receive a significant sum from my parents’ estate when they pass away - more than three times what I will receive. Firstly, is it “right” that my parents can treat us unequally and secondly, in the eyes of the law, can I contest the will?

According to a recent survey by Netwealth, an investment management company, 47% of parents plan to leave unequal shares of inheritance to their children. It’s more common among wealthier families and there can be a couple of reasons why people do it.

According to a recent survey by Netwealth, an investment management company, 47% of parents plan to leave unequal shares of inheritance to their children. It’s more common among wealthier families and there can be a couple of reasons why people do it.

Some of the ones we’ve come across are that they’ve perhaps gifted a lump sum to one sibling and not the other during their lifetime - perhaps to pay for a wedding, or a first property. Another reason is that women are more likely to take on the role of carer than men, which means sometimes sisters get more than brothers. In fact, according to Age UK, 68% of care-givers to older relatives are women. These “sandwich care givers” are so called because they are also more likely to be looking after children too - therefore some parents feel obliged to financially reward them, especially if someone has had to forego careers etc.

If either of these don’t feel right for your situation, you must talk to them about it and let them know how you feel. It could be that they have other plans that are not financial, but will still benefit you. In our experience, many families don’t even know about the existing will of others, which I appreciate isn’t the case here, but still it highlights that your parents may have other intentions that you are not yet aware of.

If this is still not the case after you speak to them, then see if you can reason with them. We see many, many emotional families that have been divided over money - a war that is difficult to win and easy to split up loved ones.

Also, it is worth talking to your brother too. It is possible for families to overturn your wishes after your death - for example if they feel a sibling has been unfairly left out of a will. This is done through a deed of variation but it should always be carefully considered - and a last resort where possible.

To others who read this, parent or child, try to keep communications as open as possible to prevent heartache - especially after your death as any surprises will only add to the grief and there will not be an opportunity to put right any differences.

If you are uncertain or you think you might have a case, contact the Private Client team to see how we can help.


Liz Dalgetty

Liz Dalgetty

Consultant Solicitor & Notary Public

Tel: +44 (0) 1306 502251

Office: Dorking

Email: l.dalgetty@downslaw.co.uk