Many people mistakenly believe that they do not need estate planning. Young adults and people who believe they have too few assets are at the top of that list. But, there is another group of people that believe that they do not need estate planning: individuals who do not have children. As a Fairfax estate planning attorney, I hear this all the time. After all, if you have no one to leave assets to, why bother? However, it is probably more important for those without children to have an estate plan than those with children.
Consider this – when a parent becomes ill and needs assistance, they typically rely on their adult children to care for them. For these individuals, a child steps in to assist with their medical and financial needs. For those without children however, it is not always clear who will take responsibility for their care when it is needed. Over the years, the number of elderly people who have no children has been rising. Some call them “elderly orphans”.
Typically, “elderly orphans” will select a niece, nephew, or a close friend to handle their financial and medical needs. Sometimes people will select two difference people, one to handle medical decisions and one just to handle financial decisions.
But, you can’t just “wish” this ability onto someone’s plate. Your loved one would not have authority to make decisions without a Health Care Power of Attorney in place, for example. In order to get this authority, they would instead need to go to court for guardianship if you don’t properly plan ahead.
Additionally, most people who own property or other assets want to choose to whom these assets will be left to. Again, if you don’t have kids, the only way to make sure that the people you actually desire inherit your assets is through a properly executed estate plan.
Keep in mind that if you do not have a friend or family member to make these decisions, you can hire a professional to serve as your agent or power of attorney. The agent can even hire a geriatric care manager to oversee your medical needs.
Hopefully, you now understand why it is critical to have an estate plan in place, whether or not you have children. To get started making your wishes known and legally documenting your choices, please call us at (571) 328-5795 to set up a consultation.