estate planning with no heirs

2022-04-04

Estate Planning with No Children or Heirs

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Creating an estate plan isn’t just for those with children and grandchildren—estate planning for people with no children or heirs is just as essential. An estate plan gives you control over who will receive your assets. If you are childless, you may still wish to leave an inheritance to your spouse, partner, family member, friend, or even a charitable organization.  

The estate planning team at Phelps LaClair can help you create a plan that perfectly fits your needs. Continue reading to learn more about the importance of estate planning for childless couples and single people. 

Leaving an Inheritance: What to Do When You Have No Heirs

When you die without a will or trust, a situation called dying intestate, your estate has to go through probate. The process of probate determines the distribution of your assets according to the law of intestate succession. Your assets then pass to your immediate heirs. 

An heir is someone who is legally entitled to inherit all or a portion of your estate when you die intestate. By order of succession, your main heirs include your spouse, children, parents, then your siblings. 

However even if you are unmarried, childless, orphaned, and without siblings, you may still have relatives that are considered your surviving heirs. According to Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 14-203, your nieces and nephews, grandparents, or your aunts and uncles could also be entitled to your estate if you have no other surviving heirs.

Although it is rare to have absolutely no surviving heirs when you are gone, it can happen. Even if you think you know who all of your heirs are, you can’t be certain where your assets will end up without a will or a trust. To best protect the future of your estate, it’s best to create an estate plan no matter your circumstances.

Estate Planning Tips for People with No Children or Heirs

Designate an Executor or Trustee

A will is a legal document that dictates how you wish your assets to be distributed. A trust, on the other hand, holds your assets safely until distribution. A will names an executor to manage your estate and carry out the wishes laid out in your will. A trust names a trustee to manage and distribute the assets within it. Whether or not you have children or heirs, you should always have a will or trust in place to protect your assets and guarantee control over their distribution.

You can choose a family member, friend, or legal professional to be your executor or trustee. However, the person you choose should be someone you trust to responsibly manage your assets on the behalf of your beneficiaries. Make sure to discuss the role with that person ahead of time. It’s important that your executor or trustee understands the responsibilities and will be comfortable with carrying them out. 

Choose a Power of Attorney Agent

If you become incapacitated, you will need a durable power of attorney agent to carry out your medical wishes. You can establish other types of power of attorney to ensure your financial and/or business needs are properly handled. 

If you don’t include power of attorney in your estate plan, your legally determined next of kin will have the power to make important decisions on your behalf. If your next of kin isn’t a spouse, partner, or adult child who you trust to make those decisions, you will need to choose a reliable power of attorney agent. 

Plan for Your Pet’s Future

Even if you’re a single person, pets are part of the family and should be accounted for. Make sure to include instructions in your estate plan for who will take care of your pets. You can even set up a pet trust to provide money for vet visits, dictate specific care instructions, and more. A pet trust ensures your pets are lovingly cared for per your instructions if you become incapacitated or pass away. 

Consider Alternative Heirs

If you have no children or heirs, there are many other ways you can designate a beneficiary. For example, you may wish to name a relative who would otherwise not be entitled to your estate. Other alternative heirs include friends and charitable organizations. If you wish to leave money to charity, creating a charitable remainder or charitable lead trust is a reliable way to protect your assets until they can be transferred to the charity after your passing. 

Consult an Estate Planning Attorney in Mesa, Arizona

Estate planning with or without children can be overwhelming. At Phelps LaClair, we have over 40 years of experience in estate planning for individuals and families of all kinds. If you have questions about estate planning with no children or heirs, call 480-892-2488 today to schedule a consultation at our Mesa, Chandler, Phoenix, or other locations. 

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (4/4/2022). Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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