The major estate planning decisions are relatively straightforward for most people. They want everything they have to go to the surviving spouse. If the spouse predeceases them, most people want to leave everything to their children.
This has been the standard practice for people for a long time. However, those people who do not have children, cannot do this. Exploring estate planning options when childless, requires a bit more thinking as The New York Times discusses in “If You Don’t Have Children, What Do You Leave Behind?”
People without children still need to have estate plans. If they do not have them, everything they have at the time of their death will pass to their closest living relatives, as determined by state laws. For some people, that might be an acceptable outcome. However, most people would prefer choosing where their assets are going to go.
Without children of their own, people have almost unlimited options. They can leave assets for their nieces and nephews, if they wish. They can leave things to other favorite family members or friends. They can also leave assets to any charitable cause they want to support.
Estate planning for people without children might require making different decisions. However, it also allows for more freedom than the norm. That freedom has its own benefits.
Reference: New York Times (February 27, 2017) “If You Don’t Have Children, What Do You Leave Behind?“