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Family conflict can make estate planning complicated

At a recent conference of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountant's Personal Financial Planning, a session was held that focused on the tensions within families that can make it difficult to address inheritance issues. The speaker was able to illustrate many sources of tension and strife that can impact the estate planning process. These matters may be of interest to many New Jersey families who are addressing estate planning needs.

The sources of familial strife are varied, and can include aspects of evolutionary psychology. Examples of these factors are birth order, favoritism, and sibling rivalry. When a family is comprised of a mix of biological and stepchildren, things can become even more complicated. In some cases, family tensions can lead one of more children or stepchildren to take drastic action, up to and including having a parent with dementia draft or augment an existing will to suit their own needs.

When drafting a will, an individual must be considered competent to meet the standard of testamentary capacity. This, however, is a relatively low threshold to meet. An individual must be able to understand the nature of the choice that is being made, and also must be capable of devising a rational plan, among other simple requirements. In fact, many individuals who are already experiencing some milder forms of dementia meet this standard.

When you combine the low standard required to create a legally binding will and the influence that family members can have on an aging relative, a scenario exists that requires a careful approach. Estate planning professionals must be prepared to look at each individual New Jersey client and evaluate the needs and goals of that individual and family. By doing so, a great deal of difficulty can be avoided when the time comes to set the chosen plan into motion.

Source: investmentnews.com, "Blood and money: How familial strife can unravel estate plans", Darla Mercado, Jan. 20, 2015

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