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More people are leaving family out of their estate plans

Gregory A. Lang

In past decades, estate planning for most people meant determining the best way to pass along their worldly wealth to their family members after death. More recently, people are increasingly turning away from family members as their chosen beneficiaries and leaving their wealth to charities, institutions, or friends instead.

This trend may be partially due to the increase in non-traditional lifestyles and families of all sorts that result in more people who are unmarried, have no children, and enjoy primary caring relationships with people to whom they are not related by either blood or marriage. Additionally, many people want to do something charitable with their wealth in order to transfer their success in life to significance after death.

So what options do those who do not want to include family have for distribution of assets? The answer is, plenty.

An excellent place to start the decision making process is to ask oneself a few questions. Such questions might include: What do I value? What organizations or charities do I believe in? Who helped me get where I am today? Who has been good to me during my life?

There are many options for supporting charities and organizations through planned giving, including endowments, scholarships, and outright gifts. Many major charities and organizations in Minnesota and elsewhere have people on staff whose only job is to assist potential donors and their attorneys with planned giving.

Additionally, wills and trusts can be specially tailored to effectively distribute personal property and other assets to those friends and other non-family members who are significant in your life.

Estate planning is a complex process, even more so when these considerations are in play. Attempting to go through this process without the assistance of an attorney can lead to costly mistakes that no one discovers until it is too late to fix them. Therefore, Minnesota residents would be smart to seek the assistance of an estate planning attorney to help them with their wealth distribution goals.

Source: New York Times, “In estate planning, family isn’t always first,” Caitlin Kelly, May 2, 2014

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