Estate Planning Myth - Fair Is Not Always Equal and Equal Is Not Always Fair

Often my clients say - "I want my children to split everything equally." When asked why the response is usually because "that's fair." So what do you do when fair and equal are not synonyms?

Example: Two children. One is a  public school teacher and the other is a doctor with her own establish practice. Both siblings work very hard at their jobs but their salaries are very different. Would splitting all of their parents' assets 50/50 be fair? The public school teacher would probably disagree. The doctor does not need the money as much as the teacher.

Example: Two children. One child lives near mom and dad and has been a primary caregiver to them as they got older and sicker. This meant that this child might have had to take her foot off the gas in terms of her own career or that taking care of her parents affected her relationship with her own spouse and children. The other child does not live near by or does not spend so much physical or emotional time with the parents. Would equal distribution be fair? 

Once an estate planner understands the family dynamic and relationships with the children, it can quickly become clear that fair is not always equal and equal is not always fair. This is usually the point when my client sighs about how much more difficult their decisions just got. But, that is why they are using an estate planner instead of legal zoom. Very few things about parenthood are easy and estate planning is no exception. Working through these situations now has two very distinct benefits.

First Benefit: Your estate plan reflects your true desires and wishes. Yes, it might take longer to create your perfect estate plan. But the end result mean that each child will receive according to their needs, and isn't that what the parent-child relationship is all about?

Second Benefit: Your children will have a better relationship with their siblings. There will be less infighting because they will understand why you made certain decisions. They will also understand how their own life-decisions (professional or personal) affected their inheritance.

For more information about Estate Planning in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, contact our office.