Whether by choice or by circumstance, you may be among the growing number of adults and even couples who do not have children. If so, you may assume that estate planning is less important for you than it is for people who are parents; however, that assumption would be incorrect. People often make that assumption because they hear people discussing estate planning concepts that are focused on protecting or providing for children. What you may not have heard are the numerous reasons why estate planning is equally important for single parents and couples without children. With that in mind, the Essex Junction attorneys at Unsworth LaPlante, PLLC offer some important estate planning tips for adults without children.
Why Do Adults Without Children Need to Focus on Estate Planning?
There was a time, not all that long ago, when society placed an expectation on adults to marry and, once married, to have children. In the 21st century, however, those societal expectations have all but disappeared. Adults, both male and female, often choose to focus on their careers in lieu of searching for a life partner. Even if they do find love, couples are increasingly choosing not to get legally married. Moreover, both single adults and couples now feel as though they can make a conscious choice not to have children for a variety of reasons, including the financial cost of raising a child, overpopulating the planet, or simply a desire to pursue a career that requires mobility. Regardless of why you do not have children, having a comprehensive estate plan in place is important for several reasons, such as:
- Choosing people for important roles. There are several important roles throughout your estate plan, such as the Executor of your estate or the Trustee of a trust you include in your estate plan. If you do not have an estate plan in place, a judge may have to decide who fulfills these positions. For that reason alone, it is to your benefit to have an estate plan in place. When you create your Will, you appoint an Executor who is in charge of overseeing the probate of your estate. Choosing that person yourself helps ensure that the probate process doesn’t take longer than necessary and does not deplete your estate of assets because of unnecessary costs and expenses.
- Deciding who inherits from your estate. Without at least a basic estate plan in place, the state intestate succession laws will dictate what happens to your estate assets. If you do not have children, that likely means that your assets, including items with sentimental value, will be given to your parents, siblings, or other blood relatives. The benefit to having an estate plan in place is the ability to make gifts to the people you care about instead of letting the state decide who gets what. For example, you might want your best friend to get your vehicle, an important charity to receive a financial gift, or your favorite niece to get your coin collection. The only way to make sure those gifts are honored is by having an estate plan in place.
- Choosing who makes decisions for you. If you develop Alzheimer’s or simply succumb to the natural aging process in the future, someone may need to step in and make medical, financial, and/or personal decisions for you. Creating an estate plan gives you the ability to choose who that person, or those people, will be instead of leaving it up to a judge to appoint someone. A revocable living trust, for instance, lets you appoint a successor Trustee who can step in automatically and take over control of the trust assets if you become incapacitated. A healthcare Power of Attorney lets you appoint an Agent who will have the legal authority to make decisions for you if you cannot make or communicate them yourself at some point in time.
- Making critical medical treatment decisions. If you have strong preferences regarding life-prolonging or life-sustaining medical treatment, you can ensure that these wishes are legally enforceable by including a Living Will in your estate plan. Without a Living Will, your loved ones may end up in court arguing over these exact decisions.
- Protecting your family pet. If you have pets that are like family, estate planning enables you to create provisions for their care. You can even establish a pet trust to ensure your cherished pets are well taken care of after you’re gone.
Are You Ready to Get Started on Your Estate Plan?
For more information, please attend one of our upcoming FREE webinars. If you are ready to gets started with your estate plan, contact an experienced Essex Junction estate planning attorney at Unsworth LaPlante, PLLC by calling 802-879-7133 to schedule your appointment today.