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In distributions to heirs, “fair” and “equal” are not the same

| Jul 14, 2020 | Firm News |

When a Pennsylvania resident drafts their estate plan, it is their right to do so in the manner of their choice. Most people are mindful of their spouse and children and create a trust or will naming those individuals primarily or exclusively, often with equal shares to each child. When the decision is to leave different percentages of the estate to different children, it is almost certain to cause some degree of concern among the heirs. Recognizing this likelihood is a good reason to review an estate plan to be certain it accomplishes all that is intended.

Although most parents strive to treat their children equally and without favoritism, life’s circumstances often intercede. It is not unusual, for example, that one child required financial assistance at some point in their life or another child has achieved a far greater degree of financial success than other siblings. These factors, and others, can cause a parent to consider something other than an equal split of estate assets in an effort to be fair. Family financial consultants suggest that of equal importance is for the parent to consider how the family may view that decision.

Without some sort of explanation, the motivation behind what was done can be misunderstood. It is wise to consider speaking to the heirs or leaving a written letter with the estate plan so it is clear what is intended. After all, a trust or a will may be the last communication a parent makes to their children, and it should be free from ambiguities and concerns.

In addition to a trust and will, various other documents are necessary to complete an effective estate plan. An estate planning lawyer can provide counsel on the best methods to achieve the desired goals while protecting the best interests of all the parties involved.