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Family conflict can be a barrier to estate planning

When people think of estate planning, they often think about how they want to leave their assets to their loved ones while at the same time protecting the value of the estate. In a nutshell, this is the entire purpose of estate planning. But there are many considerations that go into the process, which may alter the way in which one engages in estate planning. These considerations can give rise to estate planning challenges.

According to a recent survey of estate planning professionals, family conflict is the number one barrier for adequate estate planning, followed by tax reform and market volatility. More than half of those professionals indicated that designating beneficiaries and guardians is the hardest task for those engaged in estate planning, which makes sense. After all, those who are either left out of an estate plan or receive less than what they think they deserve can wind up being quite angry. Although sometimes this information is not shared until after a planner's passing, sometimes it is disclosed beforehand, which can lead to heated exchanges.

One way to avoid this conflict is by including all potential players in an estate plan from the beginning. By being open and honest up front, the matter can be explained in full, taking surprise out of the equation. It may be an uncomfortable task for some, but it is far better than the alternative. Leaving one's estate to his or her beneficiaries should be about leaving those beneficiaries better off financially, not creating conflict that can ruin a family.

As mentioned above, though, family conflict is just one of the difficult issues that must be considered when engaging in estate planning. Individuals must also think about the tax ramifications of their estate plan as well as how, specifically, assets will be distributed or invested. It can be a challenging process, and one that should not be taken lightly. Therefore, those either seeking to create an estate plan or modify an existing one should think about discussing the matter with their attorney.

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Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP
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