Even single people without children can benefit from estate planning

Oftentimes, the need for estate planning appears to focus primarily on the importance of providing financially for one's spouse or children. Less emphasized are situations involving single people who have no children. In a recent Reuters news article it was noted that there are millions of Americans over the age of 65 who are single. Unfortunately, single individuals without children may feel that there is little necessity to engage in estate planning. However, even for those without children, estate planning is still important for two reasons.

First, as noted in the Wall Street Journal, even those without children need to execute health-care directives empowering someone who is trusted to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. Secondly, even single individuals without children probably have some people or charitable organizations they might desire to benefit from bequests made in their wills.

As observed by the Colorado Bar Association, a person who dies without a will is said to have died "intestate." In this event, Colorado law "essentially writes the person's will for them" by means of the Colorado statutes that set forth which of that person's surviving relatives are entitled to inherit from them.

Assuming you are single and have no children, if you die without a will your assets will most certainly go to those designated in the Colorado statutes to receive your property. This statutory distribution of your assets will occur regardless of whether you would have preferred that your assets go to close friends or to one or more charitable organizations. In a worst-case scenario, non-relatives that you truly cared about, or a charitable organization that you fervently believed in, would receive absolutely nothing from your estate while a cousin you never met in your entire life ends up inheriting everything.

Kiplinger magazine reports that childless seniors are more likely than others to leave money to charity after they die. According to the New York Times, those who handle charitable donations are seeing a marked rise in charitable giving by those who have no children to leave their assets to. Some are making planned gifts to the same organizations and institutions that they currently support. As to those who have not yet selected any charities to benefit, one suggestion is to develop relationships with several different charities before making any final decisions. In the final analysis, estate planning decisions for single individuals without children may hinge on whether they think it is important to leave a legacy that benefits mankind.

Selecting charities

Investopedia offers the following tips on how to go about selecting charities you want to include in your will:

  • Think about donating money to charities whose work you feel connected to or feel passionate about.
  • Make sure that each charity's mission is clearly stated and that the charity exists to provide a valid service or fill a recognized and legitimate need.
  • Apprise yourself of a charity's expenses and overhead by taking a look at its financials. One should review a charity's income, spending and the salaries paid to the charity's executives.
  • Determine whether a charity is or has been the subject of an investigation regarding financial improprieties or even criminal issues.

Seeking legal advice

Even if you are single and have no children, estate planning is still important for you to consider. If you feel that it is important to plan for the disposition of your assets after you pass, you should contact a Colorado attorney experienced in handling estate planning.