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Fear of family conflict prompts people to delay estate planning

Procrastination often results when people in Georgia think about end-of-life planning. Concerns about how family members will react to final wishes about the distribution of an estate also encourage the temptation to delay writing wills or setting up trusts. A survey of 130 financial advisers found that 77 percent of them considered the navigation of family dynamics to be the hardest part about estate planning.

Two-thirds of advisers had to start conversations about estate issues with their clients. Survey results showed that 25 percent of the advisers' clients only raised the subject of estate planning after a life-changing experience. A national manager of trust administration said that many clients fear that talking to family members about final wishes could sow conflict. Children might dislike unequal estate distributions even if their parents disbursed assets in a fair manner from their perspective. People also worry that their estate decisions could alter relationships after people learn how much or how little they will receive.

For these reasons, 80 percent of advisers reported that very few of their clients had openly communicated their estate plans to their families. Many advisers believed that their clients' discomfort with family discussions about money inhibited their ability to draft estate plans that fully reflected their wishes about transferring wealth to the next generation.

Despite the challenges associated with estate planning, financial advisers agree that the worst mistake is having no plan at all. A person might overcome reluctance by consulting an attorney and learning about the benefits of end-of-life planning. An attorney may be able to describe strategies for probate and estate planning that limit court fees and protect family privacy. With legal advice, a person might make decisions about how to distribute assets and protect loved ones from disputes and unexpected taxes.

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