Estate Planning Services on The Rise

The September 11 terrorist attacks, which cut down thousands of people in their prime, have caused many Americans to examine what would happen to their families if they were to die unexpectedly.

Requests for assistance with estate planning are up between 20 percent and 30 percent since September, according to the National Association of Financial and Estate Planning (NAFEP), an industry organization in Salt Lake City.

Mike Janko, executive director of NAFEP, says the industry usually has a predictable growth rate, but terrorism appears to be increasing business dramatically -- particularly among younger families with small children.

"I think people just realized that something could happen," said Wayne Rasmussen, a partner and estate planner with the Omaha, NE, firm of Rasmussen and Mitchell.

Other factors may have played a part in the increasing business. Congressional wrangling prior to its passage of the nine-year phase-out of the federal estate tax as part of a $1.35 trillion tax cut passed in the first half of 2001 prevented some people from doing estate planning, says Frederick J. Tansill, an estate lawyer in McLean, VA. But when the measure passed and the confusion eased, "pent-up demand" for planning resulted, he believes.

Life insurance salespeople also report rising sales and increasingly receptive customers, according to Desi Doise, a vice president with Woodmen of the World in Omaha, an Omaha insurer.

"The doors have opened a little bit wider," Doise says. "It's become easier for someone to say 'yes' today because of the awareness of loss."

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