For those with no children, close relatives, or preferred individuals to inherit their estate, is estate planning still important? Absolutely. Estate planning involves precautionary measures put in place to protect your personal preferences, which is something that applies to individuals from all walks of life.
Keep in mind that an “estate” refers to all of your assets, which may include a wider range of belongings than you initially think. An estate encompasses cash and financial funds, vehicles, electronic equipment, and other valuable possessions.
1. A Will Is Still Important
A will (or, last will and testament) allows for more than just beneficiary designations. In this document, you may clarify your decisions regarding funeral proceedings, pet care, and more. A will can be highly individualized to suit one’s own circumstances. Be sure to satisfy the legal requirements for a valid will. Otherwise, you risk dying intestate, meaning your will is not valid (intestacy also applies to those who die without a will). Dying intestate can complicate estate distribution and keep your wishes from being met.
2. Intestate Law
When one dies intestate, their estate is managed and distributed in accordance to intestate law, which varies by state. Under intestate law, the estate of the deceased is distributed among surviving relatives and spouses, or becomes property of the state if there are no surviving next-of-kin. Regardless of whether one has chosen heirs, intestacy is the undesirable alternative to creating a will and estate plan, because it compromises an individual’s right to choose the fate of their assets.
3. Medical Treatment Preferences
Your estate planning documents could play a critical role in the event of incapacitation or a medical emergency. An advance directive allows one to state their medical treatment preferences in such an event. This can include your decisions regarding blood transfusions, emergency surgeries, feeding tubes, and resuscitation, among others. Even if one does not wish to choose beneficiaries, they have the option to appoint a personal representative to make medical decisions on their behalf. These decisions can be general or limited (pre-authorized decisions).
4. Charitable Giving
If there is a particular cause you are passionate about, consider leaving assets to a charity of your choice. This can be done by naming a charitable contribution in a will or setting up a trust, grant, or private foundation. Not only is charitable giving a benevolent option, but it will carry your name and values forward. Your contribution may make all the difference to someone in need.