Who Should Inherit My Money – Estate Planning for Childless Couples
Estate planning for childless couples often leads to the question “who should inherit my money?” We answer that question and more in our complete guide.
By Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks Head of Legal, Trust & Will
A common misconception about Estate Planning is that the process is only for couples or individuals with children. While Estate Planning is a critical step for parents, the process is just as important for those without children. That being said, Estate Planning for childless couples is not always a simple task. You will need to sit down with your spouse and discuss each of your assets, how you want them distributed, and name an executor. With or without children, these can be difficult conversations to have.
Luckily at Trust & Will we aim to make the Estate Planning process as simple as possible — regardless of whether or not you have children. The following guide should help answer some of your questions on Estate Planning before you get started:
Do you need a Will if you don’t have kids?
For many individuals starting a family is the first real indicator that it’s time to make an Estate Plan. In reality, there are numerous life events that should serve as signals to start Estate Planning. The clearest guideline is to make a Will once you turn 18, but it could also be when you open a savings account, get married, or even travel internationally. Read this guide to learn more about when you should create an Estate Plan.
The reason each of these events is important to pay attention to is because a thorough Estate Plan involves more than just passing down family heirlooms. Those without children still have assets and funds that can be given to someone else: whether it be their surviving spouse, family members, or even charitable organizations. Estate Planning is the best way to ensure each of your end of life wishes are followed and that your spouse is taken care of after your death. It can also serve as a directive for your healthcare in the event you are medically unable to make those decisions.
How to make an Estate Plan without Children
Estate Planning when you have no children will require you to answer some potentially challenging questions about your end of life wishes. Most notably, you will need to determine a healthcare directive and how you want your assets distributed. To ensure your medical wishes are followed if anything were to happen, it is a good idea to legally establish a power of attorney. Many individuals will choose their spouse, but in the event both partners are unable to make decisions it can be helpful to have another option listed in your Estate Plan.
The next step when Estate Planning without children is to choose where you want to leave your money and assets. This could involve leaving money to nieces and nephews, siblings, family friends, and even charitable organizations. The most important thing to remember when delegating your assets is that it should be done in a way you are comfortable with. At this time it is also important to choose an executor for your Will.
How to choose an executor for your Will
The role of an executor is to carry out the terms of a Last Will and Testament. This is the person who will take care of any final financial affairs, pay debts, and ultimately distribute assets. The goal here is to select someone you trust for the job. The person you choose could be a sibling, niece, nephew, or even close friend. You can pick anyone you want, so long as they agree to take on the role.
Now, you may still find yourself thinking “I have no one to be executor of my Will” and that’s okay. Sometimes family and friends are unable to take on the role for whatever reason, such as living too far away. In these cases, it is recommended to hire a professional executor. By choosing a professional you can guarantee that the job is done correctly, even with the most complicated Estate Plans . In fact, even couples with children may still opt for a professional for this reason.
Tips on Estate Planning for Childless Couples
Estate Planning can seem intimidating without children or heirs already in mind. However, the importance of the process remains. Here are a few extra tips to help you along:
- Leaving money to charity is always an option: If you are looking for answers on what to do if you don’t have heirs, consider leaving money to an organization you like. Many individuals will opt to leave funds or assets to charities they support, doing so can help reduce overall estate taxes.
- Don’t be afraid to work with a professional: If you are unsure how the Estate Planning process works without children, reach out to our team for help.
- Start planning early: The unfortunate reality we live in is that anything can happen; therefore, it is crucial to make an Estate Plan as early as possible. This will help ensure your healthcare wishes are followed and your assets are taken care of.
What happens if you die without a Will?
If you die without a Will, your assets will go through probate court before being distributed. Most states have their own succession laws that dictate how this process will work. If you do not have children, it is common for assets and funds to go to your parents and then siblings. Read this guide to learn more about the process of dying without a Will.
Creating an Estate Plan is an intimidating, often overlooked task. However, the importance of a Will or Trust cannot be understated, particularly when Estate Planning for childless couples and individuals. These legal documents not only delegate your assets and belongings, but in some cases can even guide end of life care. Take time today to plan out these decisions, while difficult this process can provide peace of mind for those without children to count on.
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