Planning your estate when you have no heirs
By Melissa Broad, Contributing Writer.
If you have spent a majority of your life living alone – perhaps you don’t have any family or have outlived them all. However, having no heirs when trying to plan your estate can make decisions far more challenging when it comes to leaving your assets. It can also be tricky trying to find a trustworthy person as your executor or to appoint as power of attorney.
In fact, it is a relatively common situation in which clients approach advisors for advice on what should happen to their assets in the event of their passing, if they have no children or family. These clients are also unsure who to name as executor of their will or who will make decisions regarding their healthcare and finances if they are unable to do so.
Even if you live alone, it is still crucial to create a will document to avoid dying intestate (when the court decides who receives your assets). However, it is difficult to plan when you have no family ties or close friends to consider. In cases like this, financial advisors will encourage you to focus on your personal interests and link them to charities or other organizations that accept donations.
For example, you could consider donating to a charity linked to your area of work or expertise. If you are/were a teacher, you may want to leave funds to an organization that provides education to underprivileged children. You could also establish a scholarship to award to children.
If you are going about this route, it is also a good idea to start your legacy as soon as possible in order to see its benefits whilst you are still alive. By gifting money during your lifetime, you will be able to witness how your help is assisting others – you don’t have to wait until after your death.
An even more challenging task if you have no friends or relatives is appointing someone to have medical power of attorney – the person who will make important healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
If you are a married couple, you would usually name each other as your healthcare power of attorney or executor. However, if your spouse had passed away, the living spouse might encounter difficulty naming someone else if they have no children. The same goes for people who are unmarried at the time of writing their will.
If you are having trouble appointing someone for any important positions, it is worth speaking to your bank to see if you can name them as your executor. Note that this may come at a fee. The good news, however, is that once you sort out these documents, you won’t have to think about your estate very much in the future unless you encounter a major life change.
It is also important to take into consideration that relationships change over the years. Perhaps you have nieces and nephews you planned to bequeath your assets to, but your relationship is not the same now as it was a few years ago. In this case, it would be worth it to go over your will and make the necessary changes. Charities are always a good bet to leave assets to, especially if you are passionate about a particular cause or organization.