“The more that there is an economic gulf between siblings, the less they see each other and talk,” says Dalton Conley, professor at New York University and author of “The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why.” The reason, he says, is that from the perspective of the less wealthy sibling, “I can attribute Bill Gates’ or Mark Zuckerberg’s success to luck, chance, advantages they had that I didn’t have, etc. but with someone who grew up in the same household as me and shares at least half that gene stock, the disparity falls more squarely on my own choices and behavior, and it feels like an indictment of my achievement or ability,” he says.
This is an interesting (and common) estate planning issue: what if one sibling is much better off financially than the others? Do you give them less of the inheritance? Is that fair? Will it look like you loved the other children more?
This may conjure up thoughts of the Prodigal Son—the child who took his inheritance and squandered it—only to return to his father's home to humbly ask for a job as a servant. As you may recall, the father wouldn't hear of it and threw a large party to celebrate his return. His older brother who spent all that time hard at work did not exactly welcome him back with open arms. There was no further mention of the blown inheritance by the father, and the story indicated that the Prodigal Son was treated equally and presumably received another half of his father's estate upon his death. There were no hard feelings by the older brother thereafter. Or were there?
You can hope that your children have no hard feelings if you decide to divide your assets in a way that one child might think is unfair. A recent Forbes article, entitled "When One Sibling Has A Lot More Money," discusses some of the observations that were found with siblings in different tax brackets.
The main thing missing in their relationships seems to be communication. The larger the gap, the less they talk. Read the entire article and keep it in mind when speaking with your estate planning attorney.
Reference: Forbes (February 28, 2014) "When One Sibling Has A Lot More Money"