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Gray divorce, blended families among estate planning challenges

What do professionals consider the greatest challenges to estate planning? That was the question asked by TD Wealth at an annual estate planning conference held in January. These professionals included attorneys, accountants, trust officers, accountants, wealth management professionals and elder law specialists.

As in recent years, family conflict was named as one of the leading challenges. More specifically, lack of communication about what's in an estate plan was named by 43% of respondents as the main reason for this family conflict. Blended families came in at 29%. Interestingly, beneficiary designation was listed by only 13% as the reason for family conflicts. That was down considerably from 30% last year.

TD Wealth's Head of Private Trust noted, "Gray divorce is adding another layer of complexity to the estate planning process that already arises with blended families, designation of heirs and the everchanging domestic structures. As a result, it's more important than ever to proactively review and discuss the estate plans with our clients and their families on an ongoing basis." Some 40% of survey respondents specifically said that gray divorce was increasing family estate planning conflicts.

While family conflict was named in the past two years as being the leading challenge to estate planning, it tied this year with tax reform, longer life expectancy and the rising cost of health care. (All four were named by 25% of respondents.)

As the TD Wealth executive noted, "With changes among family structure and tax policies, paired with the fact that people are living longer with rising healthcare costs, the estate planning industry has to reflect these factors in their approach."

As we live longer, our lives can become more complicated. However, that's all the more reason why it's essential to have a comprehensive estate plan in place. It's also crucial to review that plan with your attorney whenever there are changes in your life or your family that could impact your plan. By keeping your plan up-to-date, you can help prevent conflict, confusion and unnecessary costs to your loved ones when you're gone.

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