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The role of family conflict in estate planning

Ohio families may see more conflict over issues such as beneficiary designations and choice of guardians than wills or even powers of attorney, according to a survey by TD Wealth. Over 40 percent of estate planning professionals who responded to the survey said that family conflict was the overall biggest problem in estate planning. Domestic issues caused far more problems than changes in tax law or stock market volatility.

TD Wealth's head of private trust said that blended families, multiple marriages and younger spouses could all be sources of family fights. Family businesses were another common factor for disagreement. One conflict in those cases is that some family members work for the business and some do not; this causes fights about what is fair.

Analysts said that the tax reform ramifications may rank higher for professionals in another year since the survey was only done shortly after the bill's passage. Because the new tax bill doubled the estate tax exemption for couples, some may think estate planning is no longer necessary. However, this is not the case. Furthermore, analysts say that people should use the change in the tax law as a prompt to review existing estate plans.

Some testators could reduce the likelihood of family conflict by including the family in the estate planning process. This may include discussing issues such as who to appoint to make health care decisions. Estate planners should also review beneficiary designations since they may be out of date but can still override wills and trusts.

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