Even though I am approaching 18 years since my first day in law school I clearly remember Professor Stone lecturing us about his expectations. He summed up his philosophy of the law with one simple statement. He said "in this class and in life you are never to make a case based on what is fair, just, or reasonable as those words lack any true definition."
Decisions made on what is “fair” will virtually always be seen as unfair to another person. You must make sure you are making the right decision for the right reason. A reason in which you can state with a clear purpose and meaning.
Professor Stone lacked any tolerance for ambiguity. Through my practice and in my personal life I have determined in nearly all circumstances he is correct.
How do we apply this to our life or more directly to our estate plan? Initially we need to determine if the situation is something that is ours to control. If it isn’t your situation or asset to control then your getting upset likely means nothing.
Let me illustrate this situation, you learn that your mother desires to leave her money in trust with income to you for life and the balance on your death to the University of Nacho (as in not-yo money) and this upsets you. Is it fair? A better question is why is she supporting the University? Is there undue influence or duress? If not then you should except it isn't your situation to control.
On the other hand, if the situation is yours to control then pay attention to who thinks it is unfair. Better yet try to restate your reason or decision.
For example say: I desire to provide more for this child because I believe it is the right thing to do regardless of what others may think. Such a statement might not be seen as "fair" depending on which child is reading it.
However you can reword it as: I desire to provide additional funds for my son Nacho because he (quit work to care for me, has a disability, paid for his own education while I paid for the other children, always used good table manners, etc). Know you have the right to determine where and how your estate will be administered. When you define your reason (which doesn't have to be in the actual documents) you will find your reason is fair in your mind and that is really all that matters.
We place so much pressure and guilt into situations that do not require it. Make a decision. Don’t worry if it is perfect because it will likely never be perfect.
I bet you have heard a young couple saying they are waiting till they have “enough money” before having a child and yet they have been married for 8 years. What parents learn is there is never enough money, the time is never perfect, and the right amount normally has more to do with having the right amount of willpower to stand by your decision.
I find more people stress over hurting someone’s feelings than they do over what the overall purpose of the gift is in the first place. So don’t worry if it is fair. Don’t worry if it is perfect. Few things in life are. If you later determine that it was incorrect then change it. You can change direction; you can change what you want to happen with your estate.
Take a deep breath and know by following this tip you are being fair to yourself. In the end, that is better because it will allow you to release that weight and become a better parent, friend, or child.
Be good to yourself.