Fair May Not Mean Equal
In estate planning, the distribution of assets is of paramount importance. The estate plan is helpful in guiding a person to determine how assets will be preserved; how those assets can be protected for future generations; and ultimately upon death, how those assets will be apportioned.
Often when creating an estate plan the question of ‘fairness’ comes into question. One simple question –
“Do I always give my children equal shares of my estate? What happens if I choose not to divide my estate ‘equally’?”
There are circumstances when “fair” may not mean “equal” distribution of your estate– and here are just a few examples:
A family has a special needs child or grandchild to be provided for – you may decide that the one family member needs more of your assets
There is a family business and only one of your children has worked in that business – you may decide that the child who has worked in the business should get a larger ‘share’ of asset
A family farm – when ‘division’ of the property could mean dissolution of the farm business
You have given one child/grandchild a large loan that has not been repaid
One of your children is in a low income career, the other earns a very good living – you may choose to give more financial ‘help’ to the low earner
One of your children has a large family, the other child has no offspring – you may decide that the child with the larger family needs more financial assistance from your estate
You have previously given larger financial gifts to one of your children – to ‘even’ the score you decide to leave them less money
You have co-signed on a school/house/property loan for one of your children/grandchildren
You have remarried and you want to provide financial security to your biological children (your step children are adults who have already received money from an estate)
The above issues (and there are many others) all call for serious consideration of whether an ‘equal’ distribution of your estate is a ‘fair’ distribution.
And, there are solutions to the question of ‘fair’ vs ‘equal’.
An estate planning attorney can assist in helping you decide how best to distribute your assets within your individual estate plan.
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