While most Americans are graced with families and friends, there are still some out there who, for whatever reason, do not have a large number of people at their side toward the end of their life. Maybe they had a small family to begin with and they just outlived them, maybe they had a falling out with their family, maybe they were just less social.
Whatever the reason, just because you do not have a list of people you want to leave your assets to does not mean that you should avoid estate planning all together. Creating a will means that the government will not decide what to do with your money at the time of your passing. If you pass away without a will, it is called dying intestate; this means that the state courts will decide what happens to your assets. You may want to share some of your earnings with a local support group, or perhaps a religious establishment, or any charitable endeavor you find honorable that serves the greater good. You could even create a foundation and scholarship to award money to a well-deserved student. The possibilities are endless, but the fruit of your lifetime of labors will go to places you want them to go only if you have a will in order. Despite the numerous benefits of having a will, it is still believed that as many as 64 percent of Americans do not have a will, according to a 2016 Harris poll.
Establishing a health-care proxy, or someone to handle a living will, can also be important. A living will will state how your medical and health decisions are to be made if you become seriously injured or ill and cannot communicate your wishes. The document will outline how your health is to be handled, such as the decision to remain on or off life-support if the situation were to arise.
Although a will can be created independently without the help from a legal source, in order to assure that it is structured properly, it might be in your best interest to work with a firm familiar with estate planning to make sure that the document is legal and that there will be no issues with your wishes going through following your death. This may be especially important if there are no next-of-kin or a power of attorney to assure that your wishes will be granted with regards to how your assets are divided.
Source: CNBC, “Planning your estate when you’ve got no children or heirs,” Sarah O’Brien, May 31, 2017