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The Difference Between Equal & Fair In Wealth Transition

By Wealth TransitionFebruary, 2022March 18th, 20242 min read
Equal of Fair?

A recent survey has found that only about a quarter of HNW parents plan to split their wealth equally amongst their children. Factors in the decision include their children having different approaches to money, estrangement, not wanting to support a child’s partner, and adjusting for previous significant financial support. There are also variations for the different care responsibilities of children, and the number of grandchildren.

There are two key lessons here: firstly, equal is not the same as fair. We like to think “equal” can be measured objectively, but even then, there are different ways to measure it – we can adjust for inflation because of the age gaps between children, or for many children each child has, or for previous gifts. So even “equal” has many interpretations. Seeking to be “fair” starts to bring in other more subjective factors like the specific needs of each child, or other sources of wealth they may have.

There is no right or wrong way to do this, and just as in parenting generally, the needs of our children may conflict and have us making trade-offs between them. It’s important to avoid viewing (and framing) matters as a zero-sum game – that one child ‘wins’ at the expense of another (who therefore ‘loses’).

The second lesson follows directly from this: having open discussions about wealth transfer helps children understand the ‘why’ and therefore achieve buy-in to the parents’ plan. Parental edicts can be just that until their children reach about teenage-hood. Beyond that, we can’t expect our children to simply accept what we want at face value. We need to consider their perspective. Communication is the foundation upon which any wealth transfer must be built.

Consider This: Does your family favour “equal” or “fair”? How does this work in practical terms? How do family members feel about it?

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