It’s a common misconception that you must be well-off in order to need estate planning. Estates are typically anything and everything you own, and it can be any size. Making a plan for what happens if you die is critical to help ensure your belonging ends up in the right hands. Estate planning for childless couples, on the other hand, may look a little different. Still, just as important, having a will in place can help protect your family after you are gone.
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What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the process of designating who will receive your assets and handle your responsibilities after your death or incapacitation. One goal is to ensure beneficiaries receive assets in a way that minimizes estate tax, gift tax, income tax and other taxes.
Estate planning is typically an ongoing process and may change as your personal and financial situations change. Distribution of assets after you die may look different now then they will in a few years. Estate planning for childless couples, for example, may alter if later you decide to have children. Still, regardless of what life stage you’re currently in, it’s important to have a plan in place for when you pass.
Who Should Inherit Your Assets?
One of the top questions during estate planning for childless couples is who should inherit assets? The process for creating a will and estate plan is not exclusive to married couples or individuals with children. Yes, it’s a critical factor if you’re a parent to ensure that your children are protected and that there’s a named legal guardian in the event of a death. However, parentless couples and individuals can still benefit from having a will in place.
Do You Need A Will If You Don’t Have Kids?
While it’s important to outline a last will and testament if you’re a parent, it’s not the only factor to consider when assessing needs for estate planning. Even if you’ve just turned 18 and decided to open a savings account, there should be a plan in place that helps outline what happens to these assets in the event of a tragic death.
Similarly, as you move through life and hit milestones like purchasing your first home, or investing in real estate or stocks, a plan of action is a must for when you die. Estate planning is the only way to ensure that your wishes are carried out accordingly and that your immediate family, friends, or even a spouse is taken care of after your death. Estate planning can also provide details for your healthcare and your medical wishes–also called medical directive– if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.
Key Benefits of Estate Planning
It seems like many people devote more time to planning a vacation, choosing a car to buy, or even selecting a spot to eat dinner than they do to estate planning—deciding who will inherit their assets after they’re gone. Certainly, it’s not as glamorous or fun as booking a vacation, but it’s definitely not something to overlook.
Estate planning for childless couples is an important process. Some of the key benefits include:
Helps protect beneficiaries (even if they’re not your children)
Alleviates tax obligations for heirs
Eliminates family drama
Accounts for all of your wishes
Even if you’re only leaving behind a second home, if you don’t decide who receives the property when you pass away you won’t have any control over what happens to it.
Last Will & Testament for Childless Couples
For couples without children, it’s especially important to establish a will. Since they don’t have natural heirs, division of assets and property can get more complicated in the event of the death, particularly when a will is not in place.
In general, if you pass away without a will in place, assets are typically given to a living spouse. What if both you and your spouse die? If your spouse has a will, that document would determine who gets what. Alternatively, if there simply is no will in place, probate court can decide whom among your family should inherit your property.
According to a Caring.com survey, in the United States, only 42% of adults currently have estate planning documents such as a will or living trust in place. For those with children under the age of 18, the figure is even lower, with just 36% having an end-of-life plan in place.
Creating a Will
These days, it’s much easier to create a will. Broadly speaking, the complexity and cost of setting up a will or living trust depends on how difficult your circumstances and assets are. Generally, hiring an estate planning attorney can cost a couple thousand dollars, depending on your situation. However, there are alternative options as well. The easiest way to create a will is likely through online
Tips For Creating a Will When You Don’t Have Children
If you don’t have children, a last will and testament can still look like a similar process. Putting your wishes on paper helps your heirs avoid unnecessary disputes, and you gain a peace of mind knowing that your life’s possessions end up in the right hands.
Estate planners almost universally advise against joint wills, and some states don't even recognize them. Odds are you and your spouse won't die at the same time, and there's probably property that's not jointly held. That's why separate wills make better sense, even though your will and your spouse's will might end up looking remarkably similar. Some steps to consider in creating your will:
Decide what assets to include in your will
Be specific about who you’d like to inherit your assets
Choose an executor of your will
Sign will with witnesses
Update your will periodically
Making a will is important because it’s one of the last things you can do for your family after you’re gone. At a time when they’re grieving your loss, it makes the management of your assets clear for everyone involved—minus the stress (and expense) of fighting in court. If you die without a will, there’s no guarantee your wishes will be known or followed.