Family conflict issue in estate planning, professionals say

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There may be family conflict that interferes with a Wisconsin resident’s estate plan. In a survey by TD Wealth, 44 percent of estate planning professionals said this was the biggest problem they encountered. Lagging far behind were issues such as tax reform at 25 percent and a volatile stock market at 12 percent.

Professionals named beneficiary designations and guardians as the documents that caused the most problems for clients. Wills and powers of attorney caused far fewer problems. However, the company’s head of private trust says that with more blended families come children from previous marriages, younger spouses, and more family fights. A family business may also cause conflict. When some family members work for the business and some do not, there could be arguments about what constitutes fair treatment.

Taxes may be a bigger issue for professionals in the future. This survey was conducted shortly after the passage of the tax reform bill. About half of professionals said they thought the reform would be helpful. Around one-third were unsure, and the rest said it would be negative. However, people should not assume that they do not need to create an estate plan because the exemption has been increased. Furthermore, even people who are not affected by the tax reform should take the time to review their estate planning documents.

There are a number of reasons to do this. In addition to changes in estate tax law over the years, people’s families and assets may have changed as well. Documents such as beneficiary designations might not have been looked at in years, and since these designations override what is written in a will or a trust, people should review them to see whether they reflect current circumstances.