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Protecting family relationships with estate planning

Many people in California hesitate to engage in the estate planning process because they are concerned about family problems. They may fear that writing wills or trusts can bring tensions and family debates to the surface, leading to damaged relationships or hurt feelings. This is especially true for people with significant wealth, because the consequences of estate planning decisions can be far more significant over the years to come. Families with substantial wealth may face particular challenges when discussing the future of their assets.

Open communication can be particularly important, even when this is uncomfortable. In some cases, people may also want to leave a letter or other document to be read alongside the will after they pass away. However, in general, most people respond more positively when they are not suddenly shocked. Making an estate plan is not a purely financial decision, even though most people want to work to protect the family's assets. The emotional and psychological effects of estate conversations and decisions cannot be underestimated, and it is usually possible to develop plans that are emotionally satisfying and financially responsible.

Some issues that can come to the surface include sibling rivalries and tensions among blended families. While an estate plan cannot resolve long-standing family issues on its own, there are ways to avoid further difficulties. For example, one sibling appointed to serve as the trustee for other siblings can lead to tension that could be ameliorated by choosing a neutral fiduciary. In addition, trusts can create specific provisions to ensure that all parts of a blended family are cared for.

People who are concerned with family relationships may delay their estate decisions. By working with an estate planning attorney, people can develop key documents like wills and trusts that reflect their vision for the future and support a positive family relationship.

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