If you’re single and childless, you may think there is little reason for an estate plan. In fact, just the opposite is true. You have the opportunity to leave a legacy to a beloved person, a charitable organization or even a pet. What happens to your property after you die should be entirely up to you, but if you die without a will or estate plan, the state will decide who receives it.
Consider Florida’s laws on intestate succession, which is what it’s called when someone dies without a will or estate plan. If you have no spouse or offspring, the law generally directs your assets to your parents or, if your parents are deceased, their heirs. If your parents had no heirs, Florida law directs your assets to:
- Your siblings or their surviving heirs, then
- Half to each set of grandparents, then
- Half to each set (paternal and maternal) of kindred, such as aunts and uncles, then
- Any other kindred, then
- The kindred of your last deceased spouse, if any
- The state of Florida
You haven’t worked all your life to have your legacy go to distant relatives or the state of Florida. You have other priorities. Unfortunately, those won’t count unless you put a will and estate plan in place.
If you need a little motivation, consider this cautionary tale from the New York Times. When no obvious heirs could be found for a childless, unmarried New York woman, the court appointed several lawyers to be “guardians” of any potential heirs. They claimed to be searching for heirs when they spent much of the estate on a trip to Puerto Rico for themselves, their spouses and a court employee.
Get started on your estate plan today
The first thing to do is to write down whom you would like to direct your assets to when you die. Gather their contact information and, if possible, Social Security numbers. Then, go through the list and assume the beneficiary you have chosen has died before you and won’t receive the bequest. Choose an alternative beneficiary, and keep doing that until you have alternatives for everyone. Then, choose a school, house of worship or major charitable institution to receive any property that is left over.
Bring that list of choices to your estate planning attorney so they can write your will. Your attorney may offer alternatives such as trusts, powers of attorney, living wills and healthcare directives. A power of attorney for finances and an option covering your medical choices are especially important for single people with no children.
Don’t leave your assets to chance. Make your legacy intentional with a sound estate plan.