The Internet Court of Public Opinion is quick to condemn (and often on little to no evidence) but the following story about a dad of three leaving his inheritance to his son caught our eye this week…

Newsweek picked up the story from a post on the discussion site, Mumsnet. The inheritance shocked people because the man left everything in his will to his second wife and stepson, leaving nothing to his two daughters from a previous marriage.

When he remarried, the stepson was two years old and his daughters about eight year old. The post claimed everyone had a happy upbringing, the man had remained close to his daughters and he treated the stepson as his own.

Daughters married wealthy men

The post went on that the daughters subsequently married very wealthy men, the son married too but was not as well off, although he had a mortgage, a good job and holidays abroad, etc.

After the man died, it was revealed that he had left nothing to his two daughters. The Mumsnet user asked if others thought this right. Should the girls have inherited something, despite being wealthy?

A recent Survey of Consumer Finances revealed that in the US, the average inheritance received stood at just over $110,000 for middle class families. Another survey found that 68 percent of young people expected some form of inheritance, though only 40 percent of their parents reported that they were planning to leave one.

Man was ‘wrong’

Many responses to the post thought the man was wrong—that the daughters should have been beneficiaries too and all three should have been treated equally. Another commenter added that inheritance wasn’t always about money. It must be hurtful when a parent leaves nothing.

Nothing in the original post mentioned whether the man had discussed his wishes beforehand. The Internet Court often misses nuance. The man might have felt that his second wife and stepson needed the money from the inheritance more than his well-off daughters, and there could have been family discussions about it beforehand, where he made his intentions clear.

Discussions about death and dying tend to be taboo, but this is a clear case of the advantages of doing so. Parents may want to leave one child more than another. The second child might have benefited over the years in other ways—help buying property or interest-free loans from the Bank of Mum and Dad—and parents wish to benefit the child who didn’t receive that help.

Some people might also want to leave large amounts to charities and again, such wishes should be discussed beforehand. That is, of course, as long as people have wills in the first place. The number of adults in the UK thought to have a valid and an up to date will is less than half the population.


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