Fair Does Not Mean Equal - Kris Carroll, Carroll Financial
August 26, 2021

Fair Does Not Mean Equal

Summer 2021 Quarterly Newsletter

Author: Kristopher W. Carroll, PhD, CFA®, CFP®

Often the most difficult things we help our clients with have much more of a basis in psychology than in finance. I recently had one of those difficult conversations around estate planning. Rarely does anyone enjoy talking about what will happen after they die and thinking through how your children may argue after you are gone can be particularly challenging. Add to that the difficulty of having children that do not get along well and you are left with an almost insurmountable struggle…or at least a very tangled mess.

One of my favorite kindergarten sayings is, “Fair does not mean equal.” This is a concept that I struggle with myself as a parent. Like many parents, my children are very different. I have a 13-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter. My son is usually quiet, introverted and prefers to sit quietly and play on electronics or read. My daughter is outgoing and would always rather be playing outside. Not only that, the two of them look nothing alike. I do my best to treat them fairly, but already there are differences emerging in what I consider fair to one vs. fair to the other.

I am sure our family dynamics will change as my children grow and I hope we will all get along. However, I have gotten to know many families over the years and it is not always perfect harmony. As you begin planning for your estate and what might happen after you pass, family issues come to the forefront and fair does not mean equal. I encourage my clients to consider the unique circumstances of all their family members, yet I cannot tell you what is fair or right for your family any more than you can tell me how to get my son to play outside more.

So here are a few pieces of advice that my father and I came up with during recent meetings:

  1. Just do your best because you cannot make everyone happy.
  2. If someone does not like what your will says, you will not be at the reading to hear about it.
  3. Helping family can happen before you pass away and it is often better that way.
  4. Sometimes the problems in your estate plan will go away if you live long enough. Try to live a long life!

My father tells me people should leave money to their grandchildren since everyone likes their grandchildren better than their children. I tried not to take that personally.

Fair does not mean equal. Do your best to find what feels fair to you and remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t create unwarranted stress over the things you can’t control.

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