Berman & Asbel, LLP

Three Issues Regarding 'Fairness' in Your Estate Plan

The determinations and distributions you dictate in your will can have a lifelong impact on your heirs. Because of this, it is crucial to think carefully about the terms you set and how they may be received.

For instance, if you want to be as fair as possible in your will, you would be wise to consider a few things that could actually work against this goal.

  1. Equal isn't always fair. As examined in this Forbes article, you can divide your estate into equal portions to distribute to your heirs, or you can divide them into portions that are fair; the two are not necessarily the same. For instance, if one of your children has been a significant participant in your life and care while another child is estranged, you may feel the first is more deserving of money, property or other valuable items and leave a larger portion to that person.
  2. What you see as fair may not be considered as such by others. Because of this, your will could benefit greatly from clarification and preemptive question answering. If one child receives a smaller portion of your estate than your other child, for instance, clarify that the decision was intentional and explain why. Perhaps he or she is more financially stable than the other kids.
  3. Property has different values to different people. Splitting up your money in equal portions may seem simple enough, but objects and heirlooms take on various levels of worth. Leaving items with no monetary value but high nostalgic value to just one person can seem quite unfair to others who value the items as much or more than the recipient does.

Considering your will and its distributions from the perspectives of your loved ones can help you spot any potential issues and misinterpretations.

It can also be valuable to get a legal perspective on the various details of your will and estate plan. With the help of an attorney familiar with estate planning laws and practices, you can find that you are able to add, delete or revise terms that may not accurately reflect your wishes or the fairness you hope to achieve.

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