You have never been married. You are an only child and have no children of your own. Your parents are long gone and you have no other relatives. So, what happens to your estate when you die?

Since you have no heirs, can you just skip the whole estate planning process entirely? Not exactly. If you die without a will in place, you die intestate. This means the state will decide how to split up your assets. If there are distant family members, they may get all your assets, even if you have not seen them in decades. If no family members can be found, the state can simply keep your assets, including your home and all your money. Is that what you intended for your hard-earned money?

If you are estate planning without heirs, you still need a will or trust, but you will have to do things a little differently. Here are some things to consider when writing a will or creating a trust, our Brooklyn asset protection attorney adds. 

Handling Your Assets

The first thing you should do is look at your retirement and insurance accounts and make sure to list beneficiaries. If you have no children, you can list nieces and nephews as beneficiaries. Even if you have no family members, you can designate a close friend, neighbor or someone who could benefit from the money upon your death.

You also need to designate a power of attorney, which is someone who will manage your affairs upon your death. Again, this can be a close friend or someone you trust. You can name multiple people if you wish. This is a good idea in case someone does not want to serve in this capacity.  In regards to your medical wishes, a living will or advanced directive will direct doctors as to how they should care for you in your final hours.

What to do With Your Assets

Even if you have no family members, there are still things you can do with your money. Many people donate their money to charitable organizations. If you have favorite charities, you can donate to them while you are still alive so you can reap the income tax deductions. You can also create a charitable remainder trust. The trust pays you over time, so you get retirement income. Once you die, what is left goes to charity. You can also donate after your death. A charitable foundation can be created so that a charity gets money over time.

You can also use your assets to create a scholarship. College tuition is expensive and many students can not afford to go due to the cost. You can help less fortunate students by covering tuition for students who meet a certain criteria, such as academic achievement, community service or financial need.

Ted Alatsas
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Trusted Brooklyn, New York Family Law Attorney helping NY residents with Elder Law and Asset Protection
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