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Unpartnered With No Heirs: Estate Planning Still Important

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Even if you do not have a partner, children or any living relatives, an estate plan makes sense.

By Linda T. Cammuso

Even if you do not have a partner, children or any living relatives, an estate plan makes sense.

Why? If you die without a will it means that you are considered to have died intestate and the state in which you reside will determine how your property and assets are distributed.

Additionally, if you become incapacitated and do not have an estate plan, others, perhaps a total stranger, will be appointed to make critical medical and financial decisions for you.

You have the right to call the shots on how you are treated should you be incapacitated and the right to make decisions about the disposition of you property and assets following your passing. If you have told someone that a will is not important because when you die “just give all my assets to a charity,” think again – if you believe that carries a legal obligation to distribute your assets to charity; it does not.

Having no relatives or a surviving partner can make planning decisions difficult but with the help of an attorney who specializes in estate planning to guide you it is doable and necessary unless you want the state to dispose of your estate.

Every estate plan needs to have a will, durable power of attorney and health care proxy, and these documents entail choosing a personal representative (executor) and agents to act on your behalf.  It is difficult enough for people with family ties to designate who will act in those roles; understandably, it is even more difficult for those without close relatives to choose who they can trust to assume those roles.

Every estate plan needs to have a will, durable power of attorney and health care proxy.

Selecting an agent under your durable power of attorney, for instance, should not be taken lightly — you are looking for a person with both character and a sense of responsibility. Should you have no one you can think of to name, your estate planning attorney can guide you in selecting a trustworthy professional to step into those roles.

Once your personal representative/agents are selected, designating beneficiaries is the next step in estate planning. Many persons without heirs will chose to leave their estates to charities. Wills and trusts both allow you to designate someone (a trustee in case of a trust) to hold/distribute assets for your chosen beneficiaries  — and to release assets according to your wishes.

Unlike a will, a trust typically avoids the probate process, often times allowing your beneficiaries (whether individuals or charities) to receive the assets more quickly.

Consider what is at stake if you don’t do an estate plan. Do you really want a stranger making financial and medical decisions for you when you no longer can? Do you really want the state determining how your property and assets will be distributed?

Linda T. Cammuso is a founding partner of Estate Preservation Law Offices located in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is a skilled estate planning and elder law attorney and has authored many articles on elder care and long term estate planning issues. She has appeared on Money Matters Radio and has been a speaker for various community and professional organizations. 

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