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Longevity and unusual family relationships can complicate estate planning in Avalon, NJ

Longevity and unusual family relationships can complicate estate planning in Avalon, NJ


I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.
 
- Maya Angelou


Longevity and complex family relationships (ex-spouses, step-kids, step-grandchildren, extended siblings) are turning the already tricky matter of estate planning into a giant challenge.

It is estimated that more than $20 trillion will be transferred to heirs in the next 50 years — the largest transfer of wealth in U.S. history. People are living longer. Health care costs for seniors are eating up family estates. Reliance on others to feed and care for them and their finances can put more elderly at risk of financial or physical abuse by their caretakers.

The number of Americans age 65 and over has topped 40 million, or 13% of the U.S. population. It's estimated that the 65-plus population will make up one-fifth of the nation by 2050. Health care advances are pushing seniors to even longer lifespans, but are also adding enormous costs.

The fastest-growing age group among seniors is 85 to 94, jumping 30% to 5.1 million the last decade, according to the Census Bureau.

Many people mistakenly believe that Medicare and other retiree benefits will pay for their parents' care. In fact, only long-term health insurance will cover custodial care. Sometimes their children will be responsible for their parents in later life. If the estate is not clearly divided in a will, the children who took care of aging parents often feel that they should inherit more than the siblings who did little.

Sometimes, aging parents dangle the prospect of an inheritance to make sure their children will care for them in their later years. Yet the data suggests that most parents tend to distribute assets equally between children.

Family feuds over inheritance can multiply in blended families. There are ex-wives and ex-husbands, children and stepchildren, parents and stepparents. More than 50% of all first marriages end in divorce and about 75% of divorced people will marry again. More than 40% of American adults have at least one step-relative.

There are no foolproof solutions to the estate planning problem, but talking the issues out when parents are still alive can help. And planning is crucial. People might fight over money. They might fight over over memories. They might even fight over sentimental items. It is best to start planning at the first signs of health problems rather than waiting until you have to be put in a care facility.

Recognize that estate planning is hard. Whenever it involves money, someone always feels that they're on the short end of the stick. There is no perfect formula for the distribution of wealth. But plan you must, because we're all going to die at some point and you want to show your loved ones that you loved them all equally.
 
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