The rich may have more to leave behind than the rest of us, but that doesn't necessarily mean they've planned what will happen to their riches when they're gone.
In a recent poll, 29 of 100 Washington area millionaires said they do not have a will or a health care proxy, have not named an administrator for their estate, have not set up a trust and have not named a trustee to administer their estate.
More than half of the rich Washington area respondents to the informal survey haven't discussed with family members how they plan to divvy up their wealth when they die.
Compared with millionaires nationwide who were polled in the same survey, the Washington area's wealthy are eight times more likely to argue about money with their spouse and they're twice as likely not to have granted authority to make health care decisions for them in the event of incapacitation.
Luckily for PNC Advisors, the wealth-management division of PNC Bank, which conducted the survey of rich people who aren't its clients, 72 of the 100 Washington area wealthy people surveyed said they need advice on estate planning.
Thomas Melchor, chief investment officer of the PNC division that gives wealth management advice to clients with more than $20 million of assets, said this lack of foresight can cause deep fissures in a family, not to mention put an estate at risk. But money and death are often "taboo" subjects that get worse the richer you are.
"Families can talk openly about religion, politics, sex, you name it, but when it begins with the economics surrounding their death, they don't do it," Melchor said.
-- Terence O'Hara