I’m married with no children. Do I really need an estate plan?
The simple fact is that dying without an estate plan can cause serious financial problems for your loved ones, and that’s especially true for your spouse. Simply put, the estate planning process is equally important for married couples with no children as it is for large families.
Why You Need an Estate Plan If You Don’t Have Children
The first thing to keep in mind is that your life circumstances can change over time. You may not have children now, but you could in the future. Even if that’s not in the cards for your marriage, there are other considerations such as the possibility of your spouse passing away before you.
If you (or your spouse) don’t have an estate plan in place when you die, the probate court gets involved. Not only will this lengthy process eat into your assets, but someone who has never met you will then decide what happens to the assets you worked so hard to earn during your life.
Those assets may not all go where expected. In North Carolina, assets after the first $50,000 worth of property are split between your spouse and parents if they are still alive. That may not be how you want your assets divided. Most people typically want everything to go to their surviving spouse, or would instead like some to go to the spouse or close friends and the rest to charities.
Estate planning is even more important should you both die at the same time in an accident. Your estates might end up going to a distant relative you don’t particularly like, to a previous spouse you no longer have any contact with, or even just directly to the state.
In many cases, you can leave more of your assets to your surviving spouse (or vice versa) and end up paying less in taxes while avoiding the costs of the probate court entirely just by taking the time to plan ahead. In particular, be sure to discuss these estate planning topics with an attorney:
- Creating trusts to ensure your assets go where you want
- Granting power of attorney to someone you trust if you or your spouse are incapacitated and can’t make decisions for yourselves
- Planning for covering expensive nursing home costs if you or your spouse suffer serious medical conditions
- Setting up a will so your estate is distributed according to your wishes
- Taking into account anything you may not have considered, like who will care for your pets and if any money needs to be set aside for that purpose
- Updating beneficiaries for your various accounts
Don’t Let the Courts Decide Where Your Assets Go
Ready to start planning ahead? Get in touch to schedule a consultation to find out if our legal team can offer peace of mind by helping you prepare for the future.
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