No Children? The Challenge of Deciding Who Receives Your Estate’s Assets

Most people with adult children include them in their estate plan by giving them authority to make decisions on their behalf, and to ultimately inherit their assets. But what about couples who have no children? Estate planning for childless couples can actually be more challenging than for couples with children.

How is it more difficult? Well, because there’s probably no default individual to empower to make decisions on your behalf, administer your estate, and determine who will inherit your assets. Childless couples usually look to siblings, extended relatives, charities, or close friends.

Another issue for childless couples is the tendency to delay putting an estate plan together. They may think it’s not a time-sensitive task since they don’t have offspring to consider when they ;pass on. This is the wrong kind of thinking.

What if you become incapacitated? If you don’t have a power of attorney, advanced medical directive, and other vital estate planning documents, your family may be forced to apply for a guardianship with a court in order to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf, according to an article by Carissa Giebel. The guardianship appoint process is expensive, time-consuming, and can be extremely stressful on your loved ones. If your spouse is still alive and healthy, it’s likely the court will appoint your spouse to act on your behalf, but there are no certainties in this process.

If you have your estate plan together, including designating power of attorney, you avoid this expensive and time-consuming process. You also get the authority to determine who exactly will act as your agent and your successor agents, and what decisions you want them to make on your behalf, if you become incapacitated.

Estate planning tip – have a durable power of attorney for both finances and a health care. These two documents make any disability situation a lot easier for your loved ones, and allow your wishes to be carried out.

You may be asking yourself, “who should I leave my assets to?” If you have are married, the most logical choice is your spouse. Additionally, family members such as siblings, parents, relatives, etc. would be logical beneficiaries. However, if you do not have much family, or are not close to your family, you still have options for beneficiary designation. For example, if there is a charity or organization you are active in, you can designate a portion of your estate’s assets to be donated to these entities.

The overarching message remains the same – take the time to sit down and put together an estate plan. Having a plan will save you and your loved ones time, money, and unnecessary stress.