Once upon a time, when primogeniture was au currant, the first-born son got the whole kit and caboodle. Second sons got basically nothing as far as an inheritance – not to mention daughters — leading to hilarious disasters like the Ruby colony in rural Tennessee (where the second sons of upper-class Brits tried to build a utopia but only got as far as a few tennis courts and a very nice library).
Anyway, the New York Times is now asking the important and rather throw-back question: is it ever fair to give your children different inheritances? The answer, a resounding, yes!
“When you think about how parents treat children, they don’t treat each child equally,” said Suzanne Shier, chief wealth planning and tax strategist at Northern Trust. “They try to treat them fairly and equitably.” But, “unequal can be hard and challenging. It has to be thoughtful.”
One modern and potentially fair reason to disinherit a child is if one child is more successful than another. A son or daughter that became a teacher might need money more than a son or daughter than became a tech mogul.
Significant age differences between children, or their life choices are also common reasons to divvy up the family money unequally.
“When parents say, ‘We want to treat our children equally,’ we say, ‘Do you want to treat them equally or fairly?’” Shier said. “It’s not a cop-out to leave it equally. That’s a logical approach.” [NYT]