In Law, What Does "Share and Share Alike" Mean?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Share and share alike is a legal term referring to the equal distribution of assets and other benefits from an estate. All named beneficiaries are entitled to an equal share. Furthermore, if someone dies before distribution of the estate can occur, that person's share is shared again, divided into equal parts between the remaining beneficiaries. This is a common method for distributing estates in situations where the descent wants to minimize conflict by making sure that everyone gets the same amount.

Share and share alike is a legal term referring to the equal distribution of assets and other benefits from an estate.
Share and share alike is a legal term referring to the equal distribution of assets and other benefits from an estate.

A will is the most common example of a document that may use a share and share alike clause. When preparing wills, testators can talk about the risks and benefits of various methods of distributing the estate with an attorney. This model of distribution can be a good option when an estate is easily divisible, or when shared assets like real estate are unlikely to create conflict. If children express a wish to co-own a house and share rights to it, for example, they could benefit from this type of will. In another situation, acrimony might make equitable sharing more difficult.

It may be beneficial for testators to discuss the terms of their wills with prospective survivors before death.
It may be beneficial for testators to discuss the terms of their wills with prospective survivors before death.

Trusts can also be split on a share and share alike basis. Each beneficiary receives regular payments from the trust in the same amount, with no party getting more or less than others. As beneficiaries die, their shares are returned to the pool, increasing the payout for other trust members. A will may establish a trust for financial or other reasons, in which case the testator may request that the trustee use this distribution system.

In situations involving the division of assets, there are a number of guidelines that must be followed. Usually, an executor or trustee is put in charge of handling matters. The work of this person includes accurately determining the total value of the assets and making sure they are fairly divided. Any fraudulent activity, such as trying to pocket proceeds from the estate, would be grounds for a lawsuit, as it represents a breach of fiduciary duty. Sometimes, a lawyer acts in this role, using her knowledge of the law to make sure the assets are handled appropriately and responsibly.

Testators may want to discuss the terms of their wills with prospective survivors before death. This can provide an opportunity for preparing family members and troubleshooting situations that may arise. It can also be useful for establishing a clear record on the testator's wishes for the estate, reinforcing the will and reducing the risk of confusion.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I'm glad all of you had such an easy time! I, on the other hand, am not! But if all goes well, the share and share alike clause in my dad's will is going to save me!

My dad, died leaving a 31 year old will leaving everything to me and my half brother (his stepson, my mom's son from a previous marriage), my parents later divorced, and as you might imagine, my dad no longer had any relationship with his stepson for 25 years, but failed to update his will!

To make things worse, my brother predeceased my dad, leaving two children my dad never met and who are trying to claim half of my dad's $2.4 million dollar estate through anti lapse statutes!

One is now 19 and the other 7 (meaning the babies' momma will get the 7 year old's share). My dad has never met the kids, nor would he have wanted them to have half his estate versus his one and only blood related son!

It has yet to be ruled on in court, but the share and share alike clause is the only possibility that people whom my dad didn't know won't get half the estate he spent his life making! So ask your estate planners all about what happens if your heirs predecease you because anti lapse laws are crap!


I was appointed the executor of my parents estate when the second one passed away. We all knew they intended their estate to be distributed in a share and share alike way.

The problem was there was some hurt feelings with my siblings when they found out I was the one who was the executor of the estate. If there was ever any kind of strained relationship before this happened, this just magnified that tension.

Even though I was executor, I hired an attorney to make sure everything was distributed equally to all of us. The last thing I wanted was for any of my siblings to think that I was leaving them out of anything that was coming to them.


@LisaLou - You are right when you say that the share and share alike term isn't always as easy as it sounds like it should be.

When my grandpa remarried later in life after his first wife died, they kept their assets separate. He wanted to make sure all of his assets went equally to his 6 kids when he passed away.

He owned a lot of farm ground and when he died, each child received their share of this land. One of the brothers was already farming the land, and it became kind of a hassle for everyone involved.

Some of the kids wanted to keep their share of the land, and others wanted to sell it. This could have easily split up the family if they didn't choose to get along.

Even though you may have every intention of your estate being distributed in a share and share alike fashion, it may not always be done very easily.


I think many parents want a share and share alike clause in their will or trust, but it seems like it doesn't always happen that easily. I know many situations where a family ended up being divided because of hurt feelings.

I know many items have sentimental value to a lot of people, but when they are the cause of damaged relationships, I always wonder if it is worth it.

I imagine that attorneys who handle will and trust documents have some very interesting stories to tell of what happens to families when it comes time to distribute the assets.


When both of my parents passed away, settling their estate was pretty easy. I have two siblings, and we all knew how their will was written ahead of time.

They wanted their estate to equally be split among the three of us. Even though they probably didn't specifically know the share and share alike legal definition, it was easy for them to determine how they wanted their will set up.

This ended up being an easy estate to settle, and it was just a matter of time before everything was finalized. We are thankful there was never any problem between our parents and each other. I know this isn't always the case in many situations.

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