What Makes Inheritance Fair in Stepfamilies? Examining Perceptions and Complexities

Emily J Jensen, Marlene S Stum, Melanie Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This article examines the complexity of fairness in the inheritance process within the context of divorce, remarriage, and stepchildren. Interpersonal social justice theory and qualitative vignette methods were used to explore family members' perceptions of fair inheritance outcomes and processes for financial assets and personal possessions. Findings identify decision rules for determining fair outcomes, including treating biological and stepchildren equally and differently. Who participates, what structures are relied upon, the role of information, and ethical interpersonal treatment were identified as key factors when determining fair processes. Understanding fairness provides a sound basis for helping stepfamily members navigate unavoidable inheritance decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-252
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Divorce and Remarriage
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 3 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, © 2018 Crown Copyright.


  • Stepfamilies
  • decision-making
  • fairness
  • inheritance
  • qualitative methods


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