Having no heirs or surviving spouse requires a different approach to estate-planning decisions. What should happen to assets? Who should be named as executor of the will? Perhaps the hardest question of all: Who should be appointed to make decisions in the event that you become incapacitated?
A recent article on CNBC.com, “Planning your estate when you've got no children or heirs,” provides some of the problems and solutions that occur when childless people need to make these decisions.
Studies show that most childless people don’t make out a will. The issue with having no will (or “dying intestate”) is that the state will decides who gets your assets. Consider focusing on your interests and tie them to charitable giving. You can immediately establish your legacy and enjoy it, while still living.
As for deciding who to give medical powers of attorney, which allows that person to make important health-care decisions if you’re unable to do so, make a list of trusted friends, relatives—siblings or cousins who live nearby. Usually married couples will name each other as their health-care proxy, but after the death of one spouse, the other with no children has the challenge of naming someone else. The same is true for childless singles who never married.
Many people think they don’t need a will if they have no heirs, but that’s just not true. Your living will details your wishes if you’re on life support or suffer from a terminal illness. It also instructs your proxy's decision making. Need to give someone durable power of attorney to act as your agent, if you’re unable to handle your finances. You can designate different people to handle healthcare and financial decisions.
You also need to designate someone to be the executor for your estate. This can be challenging for those without any family. The executor or “personal representative” has the legal authority to handle your estate. It should be someone you trust and someone who has the bandwidth to take on this responsibility.
If you really cannot think of anyone to name, an alternative could be your bank's trust division, if they are willing to serve as executor. Bottom line: doing something is better than doing nothing. Call our office at 516-307-1236 to learn how we can help.