The challenges of estate planning are being exacerbated by the growing phenomena of ‘gray divorce,’ or the breakup of marriages among couples who are over 50 years of age, according to TD Wealth.

Conflict among family members and other heirs already is the biggest stumbling block to successful estate planning and divorce among older couples is not helping the situation, according to the private client group of TD Bank, which surveyed 112 wealth managers, attorneys, trust officers and other planners.

Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents said the problems with estate planning for those divorcing later in life also strongly impacts retirement planning and funding for retirement. Gray divorce is also having an effect on determining who will be responsible for enacting power of attorney, determining appropriate social security benefits and drafting a will, the survey said.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, between 1963 and 2017, the divorce rate for those 55-years old to 64-year-olds climbed from 5 divorces per 1,000 marriages to 15 divorces per 1,000 marriages, and for those 65 and older, it rose from 1.8 divorces per 1,000 marriages to 5.

The survey also looked at the more traditional causes of family conflict when engaging in estate planning and found that 43% of respondents said not communicating the estate plan with family members is the most common cause of conflict, followed by 29% who said dealing with blended families is a top problem.

“In addition to prolonged life expectancy and rising healthcare costs, this upward trend around couples divorcing over the age of 50 has created a recent swirl among the estate planning industry,” Ray Radigan, head of private trust at TD Wealth, said in a statement. “Gray divorce is adding another layer of complexity to the estate planning process that already arises with blended families, designation of heirs and other ever-changing domestic structures. As a result, it’s more important than ever to proactively review and discuss the estate plans with our clients and their families on an ongoing basis.”

“There are a number of external influences that we must keep in mind to ensure effective estate plans," Radigan added. "While the purpose of estate planning is concrete, the factors and threats involved are far from it. The goal for any estate planner should be to effectively cut through the noise and distractions to build stable plans with our clients and their loved ones.”

Other concerns about estate planning have come to the surface in recent years, including the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. For instance, advisors are suggesting to clients that they give gifts to heirs now while the tax advantages are in effect, that they consider setting up trusts to protect assets from future claims, and that they implement plans to minimize future capital gains tax consequences, according to the survey.

“With changes among family structure and tax policies, paired with the fact that people are living longer with rising healthcare costs, the estate planning industry has to reflect these factors in their approach,” Radigan said.