Is your Will fair? You may be surprised by the number of people who ask me this question. What makes us all unique individuals is also what determines what we believe to be fair. Sometimes the people in your life have competing needs and you may feel guilt for giving more to one to assuage that need; other times, the closeness of your relationship with one of your loved ones may mean you want them to benefit more to reward the specialness of your connection. Or you may wish to benefit your loved ones equally even if they feel like they should have received extra because of the nature of their relationship with you.
So what is a ‘fair’ Will?
A fair Will is one you believe looks after those you care about and feel a moral obligation to; that is, the Will provides for their benefit (their maintenance or advancement in life) as best you feel appropriate in light of their competing needs.
Whatever the dynamics of your unique family, one principle should hold true: your Will should reflect your wishes in what you believe to be fair. This may seem simple but it is not uncommon for pressure, expectations or fear of the reaction of a loved one to colour your wishes.
If you believe your Will may upset a loved one – you may have read our previous editorial about having difficult conversations – you may need to have a conversation with them while holding firm to your own moral compass as to what is fair. A conversation gives your loved ones a chance to understand your choices and to voice their feelings in return. There are many different ways lawyers can reduce the risk of Wills being contested and having a conversation with the person(s) most likely to be upset by your Will is one of them. Why? Because once you’re gone, and without benefit of being made to understand your choices, loved ones surprised by your Will can feel betrayed and make unexpected decisions as a result of heightened emotions. This is not appropriate in all families but it is helpful in many.
A Will is the last way in which you can benefit a loved one, give them gifts, help them financially and, by extension, demonstrate how much you care for them. It can be the ultimate validation of their importance in your life. While I could tell you what the majority of people choose to do with their will or what the laws says, what you believe is fair given your own unique circumstances and your own moral code is the best litmus stick in deciding how best you look after your loved ones.
We’ll look after you.