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Estate Planning Amid Family Estrangement: Limiting the Fallout

It’s an unfortunate reality that estrangement from family members can be relatively common in our society. Cornell University sociologist Karl Pillemer recently surveyed 1,300 Americans and discovered that 27% of them had cut off contact with a relative. Of this total, 10% reported being estranged from a parent or child, 8% from a sibling and 9% from extended-family members such as cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces or nephews.


Apart from the emotional hardship these situations can create, they also carry significant implications for estate planning. Our previous article, Estate Planning and Unequal Inheritances: Talking Is Key, covered how family circumstances might dictate unequal treatment of children in estate planning. Estrangement can be a powerful factor in those decisions. Take a couple who have two children but a strained relationship with their daughter. Their strong distaste for her husband (a feeling that is mutual) has led them to decide to leave nearly all the estate to their son and just a little money to their daughter.


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