A recent Dear Abby I ran across, “Childless Grandchild Left Out of Will,” got me thinking about the childfree, wills and inheritance. Here are 3 reasons why the childfree might not make it into wills:
I am no expert on the history of wills, but historically, inheritance has had to due with the passing on of property and assets so that they remain in the family. If this means a great deal to someone, s/he may give the lion’s share of inheritance to those who will be able to continue to pass down the family property and assets to the next generation. Obviously, if you have no offspring, you won’t be able to do this.
Like the feelings of the woman in the column, it is possible that the person writing the will would leave the childfree family member out because s/he does not like or accept the person’s childfreechoice. They are choosing not to carry on the family line, and some relatives may disapprove of this, thus disinherit them as a way to express this disapproval.
The person writing the will might believe the myth that the childfree family member is financially better off than parents and children in the extended family. While not having children means we don’t have the expenses associated with child rearing and parenthood, it does not automatically mean the childfree are financially “set,” have higher household incomes than households with families. For those who want to give inheritance to those they feel could use the money, they may incorrectly believe that the childfree family member needs the money less than others with children.
Having said these three, there are many reasons why some family members are left out of wills, or “get less” than other family members when someone dies. So often wills reflect family relations, dynamics and politics. Not being in your parents, grandparents or other family members’ wills may not have anything to do with one’s choice not to have children.
What have you seen? Do you know of situations in which people were left out of the wills because they had chosen the childfree life?