The world is full of billions of people with a full spectrum of familial relationships. Some have large families. Others have none or have small ones whom they've outlived. If you're in a situation where you have no living spouse or close blood relatives, your circumstance dictates that you definitely should look at getting an estate plan in place. The state laws for people like you may, if have no plan, send all of your wealth to a distant relative you don't even know personally. With a plan, you can make certain that those whom matter the most you will be the ones to benefit from your legacy.
Almost all of us have reasons for needing to plan our estates, with aspects of our lives that make taking control of our legacies both important and desirable. Maybe we want to ensure financial security for our children, grandchildren and their descendants. Maybe we need to make certain that a child with special needs continues to be provided for. There are many purposes related to spouses or immediately family that drive many of us.
However, what if you have no surviving spouse, or children, or siblings or parents? What if you have no close living relatives at all? Is it true that you no longer need to worry about planning your estate? Absolutely not! In fact, the opposite is often true.
In many cases, people who never marry and never have children may be able amass greater savings due to the absence of a need to spend wealth on kids, who can tend to be expensive. Many of these people, then, may have substantial wealth while at the same time having strong desires and goals for what happens to that wealth after their deaths. Maybe you want to recognize a platonic friend. Maybe you have a favorite charity. Regardless of the destination, chances are that you have a preferred one, and that is why, for you as a person with no close legal relatives, estate planning is extraordinarily important.
If you are a person with no close living relatives or spouse, do you know what happens to your wealth after you die if you have no valid estate plan in place? The answer is: the same thing that happens to everyone else's estates when they have no plans… intestacy. Intestacy means that your wealth is distributed according to a pre-set system established by the statutes of the state where you legally reside. Generally, this means that whomever is entrusted with distributing your wealth will be charged with finding your closest living relative(s) and giving your assets to them. If you have no living spouse, children, siblings or parents, the system will continue expanding across your family tree, in search of cousins, aunts/uncles, grandparents and so forth.
Eventually, if there's no living person within a certain degree of blood relation, your assets distribute to the state treasury of the state where your reside. In other words, if you do not set up a plan, your assets could easily end up going, after you die, to a grand-niece/nephew or first-cousin-twice-removed whom you may have never met!
So, how do you avoid this? Get a plan, and get started right away. With a proper and complete estate plan in place, you can take total control of your legacy and make sure that your wealth goes to the people and/or institutions that you want to receive them. Trust planning can be an integral part of your estate planning as a person with no spouse or close living relatives. Maybe you have a beloved pet or pets in your life whose care you want to ensure and provide for after you're gone. With a complete estate plan that includes a pet trust, you can make certain that you're in control of indicating whom you want to care for your beloved “fur-baby” after your death, and you can make sure that that person has the financial resources to provide that proper care.
Alternately, perhaps you have a charity whose mission is close to your heart. With proper trust planning within your overall estate plan, you may be able to direct substantial resources to that charitable organization and possible reap important tax advantages along the way, too.