If You Have No Children, Do You Need a Will?
Many individuals and couples who do not have children decide without much consideration that they don’t need a will. But is that true? If you have no children, do you need a will or not?
If you stop and think about it, someone has to inherit your assets. If you don’t decide on who will inherit what you leave behind, state law will decide for you. They may determine your horrible, 3rd cousin, Horace, will inherit, but your great-aunt Sharon gets nothing. If you don’t want your random, terrible, 3rd cousin, Horace, to inherit, seek out an estate planning attorney. If you need another reason, read on.
Estate planning is very individualized.
There is no one single estate plan that works for everyone. In scenarios where there are no close relatives (other than a spouse), the decisions necessary for a thorough estate plan can seem too overwhelming. It can be so overpowering, in fact, that some delay completing their estate plan for years or never finish it at all.
If you are in a similar situation and you are struggling to make your decisions, here are some issues to consider:
Plan for Incapacity:
A plan for incapacity should be a top priority. Every estate plan should include an advanced directive for health care and a durable power of attorney for financial/legal matters. These estate plan documents let you determine who will make decisions about your medical care and legal needs if you are no longer able to make the decisions for yourself. Even a spouse will not have the power to make some decisions for you without these documents in place. Without these documents in place, a court proceeding would be necessary for your closest relatives to obtain the right to assist in medical decision-making on your behalf.
Create A Trust:
Trusts manage many of your assets during your life. They also act as a substitute for your will when you die. The trust offers two main benefits: 1) trusts help avoid probate, and 2) trusts allow you to provide an inheritance in a protected way while maintaining privacy. Probate is a court process that clears titles to assets in your name when you die and typically requires notice to be provided to the closest living relatives. In some instances, the standard court process for identifying the “closest living relatives” could mean your inheritance goes to people you barely know or people you never wanted to be involved in your life or your estate. Even if you do have a will guiding asset distribution, the “closest living relatives” are generally notified of the proceedings and can intercede in the process and obtain info on estate assets.
A trust avoids these issues. After setting up your trust, you should fund your trust by having the trust “own” most of your assets (except a retirement account since it has a beneficiary designation). This will help avoid probate for any assets the trust holds title to.
Include Your Pets:
Don’t forget to include your pets in your estate plan. You can use your estate plan to help determine who will care for your pet or pets when you are no longer there to take care of them. Some choose to leave the pet and some funds to someone they trust to continue appropriate care for their pet. Others set up a formal pet trust to provide for their pet after they’re gone.
The bottom line is that estate planning is you acting on your right to determine who will inherit your assets. Proper planning is crucial to ensure your wishes are carried out as you intended.
If you need to create an estate plan or if you have questions about whether or not you need an estate plan, get in touch with one of the experienced Florida estate planning attorneys at Elder Solutions Law Firm, PA.