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Managing family dynamics when estate planning

Many people are uncomfortable talking about money, even when it is with family members. So, it makes sense that a recent survey determined that 80% of a polled 130 financial advisers stated that navigating family dynamics or relationships was the most complicated part of estate planning. The report added that common mitigating factors included multiple marriages and blended families.

Clients not talking with family

The same group also said that clients are not having open conversations with family members. The common reason for this is that the clients do not want to start conflicts among different factions of the family. Unfortunately, this type of avoidance can also discourage clients from updating their estate plan.

Four tips for starting the conversation

The dynamic of each family is different, but here as tips for starting productive estate planning discussions:

  1. Announce ahead of time: The chemistry among family members is nuanced with each person taking on a role, so anything that upsets that balance can be perceived as a threat to the status quo. Let those involved know ahead of time that there will be a discussion, especially if it is out of the ordinary to talk about finances.
  2. Create a safe space: Try to a set a tone that is positive, inclusive and collaborative by establishing ground rules. Make it clear that everyone will be heard from, regardless of age, skillset or the usual role they play.
  3. Be sincere: Be clear about the fact that you are doing it to make proper plans that are understood, instead of trying to stir the pot or upset people.
  4. Stress the benefits: Point out that it is important to have these conversation while the parents can still explain their thinking and listen to the concerns of those affected.

Additional guidance is likely necessary

Ideally, someone should take notes to ensure that important points are not forgotten. These can then be used to help make changes or updates to the estate plan with the help of an experienced estate law attorney, who can also address concerns and propose solutions based on the conversations.

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Peter J. Snyder, P.A.

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