When Equal Isn't Exactly Fair
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
When I meet with new clients, they often ask what I would do in their situation. I always say, “it depends on what you want.” Distributing everything equally is simple, but may not be fair, so let me explain myself a little here. Equality is a noble concept and one many people turn to when deciding how to divide up their estate. There are many circumstances in which equal distribution of assets among beneficiaries is the right choice, but there are some cases where identical inheritances do not make the most sense. In such situations, the difference between what is equal and what is fair is obvious. Take a look at two examples:
In this hypothetical, you have three kids and want to divide your assets and wealth equally among them. All three are at similar places in their lives, have received similar emotional and financial support from you in the past, and are each responsible and capable of managing their individual inheritance. Equal division is obvious and easy.
In hypothetical two, you have three kids, but the youngest is still in high school. You paid for your oldest to attend a four-year college and he is now a successful accountant with his own home. Your middle child has opted to go to trade school instead and is renting an apartment in another state. Here, evenly distributing your estate might not end up being truly equal. If you gave one child more money during their lifetime, equal distribution of your estate could lead to tension – siblings who have not yet received as much financial support as others may feel slighted.
Planning for Division
While it is important to consider the feelings of your loved ones when dividing your assets, you have the right to do what you wish with your estate. When perceived inequality is a concern, it may help to talk to an attorney about your options. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you craft a custom plan that will carry out your goal of supporting each beneficiary in the specific way they need. In many cases, if you make a decision today and want to change it in a few years as your beneficiaries’ lives change, I am here to help. People’s needs will change over time, and it is just as important that you update your estate planning to reflect these changes.
One thing you should avoid? Putting off your estate planning. Failing to spell out your wishes ahead of time will cause your estate to be decided by a judge. If this is not the outcome you want, it is crucial you have an estate plan in place. Left to chance, your loved ones could be caught in probate, battling for what they feel is their deserved inheritance.
There are many factors to consider when dividing your assets, but simply making the choice to move forward with an estate plan is a great start. Feel free to give me a call (435-777-4740) to set up a meeting. I am here to help you determine the best way to accomplish your goals--whether they be fair or equal--for distributions to leave to your beneficiaries.
Daybell Law provides a concierge-style estate planning service. This means that I personally come to your home, or where ever you are most comfortable, to discuss your plan. Estate planning doesn’t have to be expensive; it just has to be right!