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Childless Couples Need Estate Planning Too

by in Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorney Blog on 14 January, 2015 with 0 Comments

Childless Couples Need Estate Planning Too

Estate planning is not just for those with children. No matter who you are, whether you have children or not, married, single, rich or poor, you need some level of estate planning to protect your future, whether you have many kids from multiple marriages and complex finances to those who are single and without many assets.

The issues facing childless couples were recently featured in a Wall Street Journal Article by Carolyn Geer. She points out that like others, childless couples face two major planning issues, what happens to their property after they die and who will handle medical and financial affairs if one or both become incapacitated.

Without planning documents, state law spells out who will inherit your assets. Your assets would normally pass to your spouse. When he or she passes, assets from both of you would go to your spouse’s closest relatives. If you don’t want to possibly disinherit your relatives, leave something for friends or your charity of choice, you need to plan ahead. There are a couple ways to do this,

- You and your spouse create “sweetheart” wills, with everything going to the surviving spouse then stating who gets what after you both die.

- Another, more complicated approach is to transfer your assets, during life or at death, to a joint revocable living trust. It would state how the assets are to be distributed. This can help avoid the probate process, which in California can be costly and time consuming.

A drawback to these approaches is that the surviving spouse can amend his or her will or the couple’s joint revocable living trust, so your assets’ ultimate fate may be determined by your spouse.

For more control create irrevocable trusts in your wills or in separate trust documents. When the first spouse dies, his or her share can be used for the surviving spouse’s benefit. Who will inherit the assets when that person dies can be spelled out in trust documents.

When planning on how financial and health decisions will be handled, general powers-of-attorney and health care documents naming a third person to make financial and medical decisions if you become incapacitated should be created.

Without children a couple may have a hard time deciding who they trust implicitly to take this role. Spouses can name each other, but at least one additional person should be named. Possible candidates can be professional fiduciaries hired as agents under powers of attorney, geriatric care managers, trusted nieces, nephews, friends, clergy, siblings and cousins.

No matter your station in life, with or without children, you need to consider your future and how to best plan for it.  Contact our office so we can talk about how to best protect you and your spouse.

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