Unequal Treatment of Sons vs. Daughters in Wills: Tradition-Based Preference

How Tradition Can Impact Wills Distribution | Klein Lawyers

In a previous blog, we covered the case of four sisters who challenged a last will and testament where they were bequeathed only 1.7 percent of their parent’s estate while the two brothers were bequeathed 93 percent between them. The court ultimately ruled in the sisters’ favor and the estate was redistributed. However, this presents a bigger issue of equal distribution in wills between sons and daughters against the idea of tradition-based preference in the distribution of inheritance.

What Is Tradition-Based Preference?

In some cultures, specifically those of Asian origins, parents will often leave their estate to their sons, especially if daughters have married and changed their surname. Throughout history, the concept of primogeniture, or the right by law or custom of the firstborn son to inherit the parent’s entire estate, was prevalent. Due to tradition-based preference, some families have argued for an unequal distribution based on their tradition; it is common to treat sons and daughters differently under a will, so such inequity should be allowed.

Despite this, such cultural factors are not present in the law of British Columbia. British Columbia’s Wills Estates and Succession Act (WESA) includes a provision that allows children to challenge a will because of unequal treatment based on sex. The BC court system has sided with the disinherited children, ruling that overt discrimination based on sex will not be tolerated.

How Families Get Around Unfair Distributions

Despite the moral obligation of parents to provide adequate provisions to their children, there are ways to ensure traditional beliefs are followed.

One such way is to gift or place property in joint ownership with a son. This would limit the joint property from being subjected to WESA. In addition, parents can create trusts, insurance policies, retirement savings plans, etc. to ensure that the guidelines are clear on who inherits what.

If the parent or parents still wish to illustrate an unequal distribution within a will, the rationale for the distribution must be clear and concise. For example, it would help to identify that a son was the primary caretaker, controlled the family business, etc. Generally, cultural preference will simply not be enough. 

Have Questions about Unfair Distributions? Call Klein Lawyers.

Be it cultural differences or something else, when a family chooses to leave one person out of will, or unequally distribute an estate amongst siblings, it’s likely to cause controversy.

But Klein Lawyers can help.

Contact Klein Lawyers at (604) 874-7171 or online today for a free, confidential case evaluation. Our wills variation lawyers serve clients throughout British Columbia from offices in Vancouver, Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley, and Surrey.