For some families, the fairest inheritance is one that is equal. A parent may have three children who are all roughly at the same place in life. The easiest option is to divide the estate into thirds and give them each an equal portion. It’s simple, straightforward and unlikely to cause any disputes.
In some cases, though, what is really fair may be a bit different, and may not be equal. You really have to consider what your heirs need.
For instance, imagine that two of your children are well off. They’re both doctors, they make plenty of money, and they have young families of their own. Each has two children, so it’s manageable — especially on a medical salary.
Your third child, however, recently lost their job in a recession when the business they started had to close its doors. They have four children. Adding to their financial pressures, one of their children has special needs and requires extensive care.
In a situation like that, it becomes clear that the fairest solution may be one in which you leave the bulk of your estate to the child who needs it most. The others are doing fine without your money. They may have enjoyed it and used it to take a vacation or buy a new car, but they didn’t need it.
Keep in mind, though, that leaving unequal bequests can often cause disputes, even if it seems clear to you that you’re doing the right thing. You may want to talk to your children in advance. You also need to know what legal options you have.