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The difference between 'fair' and 'equal' when it comes to heirs

Parents of multiple children know that it doesn't take much to spark a fight between siblings. This can be especially true when it comes to how kids perceive the treatment they receive from parents. The phrases, "That's not fair!" and "But I'm older!" can be made more times than a parent could ever count.

This is why parents can struggle when it comes to deciding how to distribute their assets in a will or trust among their children. Is it better to be fair or equal? Below, we examine some pros and cons of each approach.

Being fair

Should you put fairness over equality in terms of inheritances, then you will want to take into account several factors when deciding how to distribute your assets. You should consider:

  • Each child's financial status
  • Each child's attitude towards money
  • How each child will spend or use an inheritance
  • Your individual relationship with each child
  • How many children your child has

Based on these factors, you may decide to leave more of your estate to a child who has less money than the others, or one who plans to use an inheritance for philanthropic pursuits over extravagant purchases.

However, understand that fairness is in the eye of the beholder, as is discussed in this article. Just because you think something is fair does not mean your kids will see it that way, which can spark contentious disputes.

Being equal

Leaving equal shares of your estate to each of your children can be a quick and easy way to distribute assets and attempt to avoid disputes. When everyone gets the same thing, there is no room for claims of favoritism. 

However, your kids can take issue with equal division of assets if there are considerable differences in their relationships with you or their financial standings. Further, leaving property, like a house, to multiple kids can spark heated debates over decisions like whether to keep or sell the property. 

Deciding what is best for your family

Every person is different, so deciding whether being fair or equal is better for your family will largely be up to you. Once you decide this, though, you can work with an attorney to ensure your wishes are clearly defined and properly carried out.

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