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If you and your spouse are child-free, you may think you don't need to think about comprehensive estate planning—but you'd be wrong. You'll still want to ensure your assets go where you'd like them to after you're gone, rather than being divvied up by the state.

Estate PlanningIf you and your spouse don’t have children, you still need to think about estate planning, as the focus of your financial legacy may be quite different from what it would be if you were parents.

Motley Fool’s article, “5 Estate-Planning Tips for Child-Free Couples,” suggests that you may want to leave some of your money to friends, family members, charitable organizations, or your college. No matter the beneficiaries you choose, these estate planning tips are vital for childless couples.

  1. A will or better yet, a Revocable Living Trust. You need a will or a trust as part of your estate plan, because couples without children don’t have natural heirs to inherit their wealth. If you die without a will, your assets will go to your spouse. If neither of you has a will, you don’t create a living trust, the state intestacy laws determine which of your family members inherit from you. The family of the first spouse to die may be disinherited.
  2. A power of attorney. Who will make financial decisions for you, if you and your spouse become incapacitated? You can select a person to do this with a power of attorney (POA). You can name a person to pay bills, manage your investments and handle property matters, if you’re unable to do so yourself.
  3. Up-to-date beneficiaries. If you have retirement accounts or life insurance policies, the distribution of the proceeds at your death is made by a beneficiary designation, not by your will. Correctly naming beneficiaries is part of estate planning. A frequent beneficiary error is not keeping those designations current.
  4. Give money to charity now. You may think about leaving your assets to organizations that have enriched your life. You can set up a trust to be sure that your money goes where you want. The estate planning attorneys at Krause Donovan can help you make sure your charitable intentions are carried out.
  5. Remember the pets. If you have furry children, plan for their care when you’re not around to tend to them yourself. One option is to name a person to take care of your animal in your will and estate plan. You can also put money into a trust specifically intended for the animal’s care or designate an organization that will provide lifetime care for your pet with money you earmark to that purpose.

Remember that child-free couples need an estate plan, just as much as couples with children. If you’re interested in making sure the state does not dictate how your assets are divided, please request a consultation with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.

Reference: Motley Fool (September 9, 2019) “5 Estate-Planning Tips for Child-Free Couples”