Not having any children or heirs doesn’t mean you should forgo writing a will. If you decide to have children later on, a will can help protect their financial future. But even if you die childless or childfree, having a will can help you ensure that your assets will go to the people, institutions, or organizations that you intend to leave them to. Estate planning is necessary for everyone, regardless if they have children or are married.
So, what happens to your estate if you don’t have a will nor any children? Here is how it usually goes:
If you have no children, your estate will go to your spouse or common-law partner unless stated otherwise in your will.
If you have no children or a spouse or common-law partner, your estate will go to your living parents. Typically, your estate will be divided equally between them.
If you have no children, spouse, or living parents, your estate will go to your siblings. If there are any deceased siblings, their share will go to their children.
As you can see, it can be difficult to navigate who gets what without a will that explicitly states who the beneficiaries are and what they will receive from your estate. For example, if you have no children, spouse, or living parents, but have siblings, dividing your estate between them can be an added hardship on top of an already difficult time.
Hence, the best way to ensure that your estate goes to the right people and that your loved ones can divide your assets as easily as possible is to write a will. Find a will or trust attorney who can help you with the process. You can draft your first will at any point in life, even if you are still young and healthy. You shouldn’t wait until you are married, sick, or get older to plan your estate.
Choosing an executor
An executor is someone you appoint on your will who will have the responsibility of administering your estate after you pass. He or she will be the one to discuss your last wishes with the testator and the beneficiaries and will have the duty to carry them out.
Usually, people appoint one of their children as the executor of their will. But if you have no children, you can appoint another family member or a friend. In any case, you must choose someone that is trustworthy, responsible, impartial, and has the mental and emotional capacity to carry out this responsibility while mourning your death. Preferably, that person has a professional background so that they can have an easier time navigating the details of your estate.
Making changes to your will
Regardless if you have children or not, you should update your will after every major event in your life, such as marriage, the death of one of your intended beneficiaries, and divorce. If you don’t have children and don’t plan on having any for the rest of your life, it’s one less thing to worry about in your will. Nevertheless, updating your will is crucial to ensure that it is still in line with your current wishes and status.
Explicitly naming your beneficiaries and indicating what they will receive from your estate will help prevent any disputes or contests after your death. If you have no children, your next options are your immediate and extended family. You could also leave a part (or your entire) estate to friends. Moreover, you can also name charities and other organizations as beneficiaries, as well as schools, hospitals, and other institutions. If aren’t sure about the process, discuss your intentions with your lawyer.
If you have a pet, you can also ensure that they will be taken care of by appointing a caretaker in your will and leaving a portion of the money for them.
It is also important to name who should receive items of sentimental value, such as family heirlooms, jewelry, artwork, and more. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to discuss with your loved ones who receive what in case they are any disputes in the future.
Even without children, estate planning can be a complicated process. Nevertheless, it is important to plan your estate well in advance so that if something happens, your assets will go to the right people and your last wishes will be carried out.
If you haven’t already, start drafting your will, regardless of your current age or health. As you live your life, update your will as needed so that it is always in line with what you want to happen after you pass.