Estate Planning Isn’t Just for People with Children
It’s very common for clients to seek out estate planning when a child is born or when they are preparing to travel without children for the first time, but adults with children are not the only ones that need proper estate planning. In fact, in some ways it is more important than ever for childfree individuals and couples to consider a comprehensive estate plan.
One primary issue that must be addressed for a person without children is: who will inherit your assets (e.g., real property, bank accounts, personal effects, etc.) upon your death? As set forth in the probate code, the California legislature has decided who will inherit your possessions if you do not specify using a testamentary instrument like a revocable living trust. In general, most people prefer to distribute their assets to a variety of different people, or charitable organizations depending on their philanthropic inclinations, rather than rely upon the government to decide that for them. Additionally, by disposing of your assets via a revocable living trust, you can largely prevent your assets from passing through a court-supervised process called “probate,” which can be incredibly time-consuming and costly for your eventual heirs.
Another major concern is who will act as an agent to represent your interests – both financially and medically – if you are unable to handle them yourself. These agents are often referred to as a “power of attorney.” For married couples or individuals with children, naming an agent is usually a simple process of naming the spouse and/or a responsible child as a potential back-up agent. However, for individuals and couples without children, this should be a primary area of concern. Fortunately, health care directives and durable powers of attorney for financial purposes are not documents that get utilized every day, but they are very important when they need to be called upon. For that reason, individuals and couples need to consider close friends or relatives that they can trust to carry out their wishes during such a serious series of events.
These are only a few of the largest considerations that we encounter when advising clients about their estate plans. For a more comprehensive review of considerations necessary to achieve your personal objectives, we recommend that you meet with one of our attorneys and see how we can help you plan for the future.