Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario: Do I Need To Do Estate Planning?

Question: 

If I have no children (and have not come into millions of dollars yet) do I need to do estate planning?

Answer:

Clients often assume having an estate plan is not necessary if they do not have children.  However, in my experience, the more complicated estates for which I have been involved were those of single folks or couples who did not have children. The estate plan covers the possibility of a permanent or even temporary incapacity which affects all individuals, even those who do not have children or a spouse.  In the case of a single person, it is important to have a financial power of attorney – appointing an agent to make financial decisions if the person becomes unable to make decisions for himself and a medical directive – appointing an agent to make health related decisions if the person becomes unable to make decisions for himself.  These documents are essential, particularly for one who is not married.  The alternative in the case of a permanent or temporary incapacity is a guardianship which are often expensive and involves the courts. Many unmarried couples with long term partners share property and have intertwined finances.  In these situations, it is not certain how the partner would benefit from the other’s estate or even whether her partner for example could even remain in the home.  The rights of the heirs would generally trump the rights of the partner which might not be what was intended.  We were reminded of this with the death of L’Wren Scott, Mick Jagger’s long- time girlfriend. Comment:  For those individuals who do not have children or a spouse, often the estate plan involves charities or children of siblings who they wish to benefit from the estate.  I find that these types of plans are more complicated than the perhaps more common estate plan involving children and a spouse.  Therefore, it is essential not to overlook estate planning in these situations. As always, if you have questions or would like to know more about estate planning please contact Steven E. Shane at: Steve Shane Head Shot for websshane@offitkurman.com | 301.575.0313. Steve provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates. You can also connect with Offit Kurman via FacebookTwitterGoogle+YouTube, and LinkedIn.