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When Equal Isn't Necessarily Fair

Posted by Lauren Rios | Jun 14, 2019 | 0 Comments

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. Let us take a look at an example of each:

Equal Division

In hypothetical one, 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.

Fair Division

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, we are 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. In such cases, assets are typically divided equally and distributed outright. 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 us a call to set up a meeting. We are 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.

About the Author

Lauren Rios

Attorney Lauren Rios established her estate planning process on the philosophy that everyday people deserve access to the exemplary services of a big firm, but with the personal touch of a smaller firm. This belief is reflected in her delivery provided to her clients in the Bay Area.

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