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Changing dynamics in estate planning could affect family

Just a generation ago, families looked quite a bit different than they do today. The shift in family structures can have a strong impact on how people view their relationships and what goals they may have for financial planning. This can be seen in how estate planning is done these days.

For example, older generations may have simply left all their assets, money and properties to their children. Today, however, many people are choosing not to have kids. This can have a profound impact in how people decide to distribute their assets when they are gone. Specifically, more people may be leaning more toward planned gifts to charitable organizations and away from leaving it all to family members.

Leaving money to an organization in the form of a planned gift is an option that many people across New Jersey may be considering for a number of reasons. A person may not have a spouse or children, or they may not feel like it is a fundamentally beneficial solution to leave large amounts of money to family members who do not need, deserve or want it. There are also people who feel that they want their legacy to live on through an organization that was very important to them.

Leaving money to charitable organizations can certainly be a very good solution. Contributing to an important cause can help a person feel that their gift will make a difference and be a way to support a group that has played a positive role in a person's life.

However, donating assets can still prove to be complex, especially when there are family members who will be affected by this decision. Unless an estate plan provides clear instructions for how to distribute assets, there may be an opportunity for family members to challenge a plan. People can be hurt if they are left out or they may have reason to believe that a person was unfairly persuaded to give away money.

Rather than leave the door open for potential disputes and complications, or run the risk of not leaving the appropriate gifts to charitable organizations, people who are considering this option may want to discuss their plans with an estate planning attorney. Seeking legal guidance can help people be sure that their wishes are expressed, protected and enforced effectively.

Source: The Boston Globe, "In estate planning, family isn't always first," Caitlin Kelly, May 8, 2014

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