Can we talk about the concept of FAIRNESS for a second? I recently attended a board meeting where we had to make a decision about what was fair between the nonprofit Association (where I was a Member) and its nonprofit Foundation (where I sit on the Board). We discussed that there are expenses associated with our Foundation that the Association was paying and those expenses were on the rise. We debated whether it was fair for the Foundation to pay an equivalent percentage of the increased costs. Or was it fair for the association to bear the costs as a labor of love?

Fair is not always Equal and Equal is not always Fair.

I have this same discussion with my estate planning clients, particularly in blended families or families with multiple children that have varying degrees of needs. I pose questions such as:

1) Does a doctor need as much financial help as a stock clerk?

2) Is a child with learning disabilities going to need more financial assistance for education than a child on the honor roll?

3) Do you want to cut off financial assistance to a child at a time when they most need the financial help?

4) Should a child be financially compensated in proportion to the amount of assistance they are providing other family members?

Sometimes the answer to these questions is a resounding “they should be treated equally.” But sometimes it’s not. What is FAIR in these instances is not always EQUAL. It’s something I hope you all are thinking about in the estate planning process.