What can you do if a parent’s will showed favoritism?

You and your two siblings expected to get significant assets from your parents when they passed away, but you also expected those bequests to be equal. For the sake of simplicity, say that your parents had $1.5 million after taking care of costs and debts. You all expected $500,000, and you were counting on it to help you retire.

But is there some sort of legal obligation for things to be equal in a parent’s estate? You sometimes hear about people challenging a will when it seems to show favoritism, but is that really how it works?

There are two sides to this answer. First, parents can leave unequal bequests if they want — and doing so is more common than many people realize. They could give you $1.4 million and leave just a minor fraction of their wealth for your two siblings to split. They could leave you nothing at all and divide the $1.5 million between your siblings. That is their right. Their bequests do not have to be the same for each heir.

The key thing to consider is why things are equal. That’s when you may have the grounds for a lawsuit or a challenge. For instance, perhaps your other siblings lied about you and convinced your parents to change their will right before they passed away, taking your inheritance away and transferring it to them. That could be undue influence, and it is proper grounds for a challenge.

As you can imagine, cases like this can be both emotional and complex. You absolutely need to know your rights, and it can help to work with an experienced legal team to decide what steps to take.