As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. In terms of estate planning, it takes an experienced estate planning attorney to help you prepare for the future, even if you do not have children. As legal professionals we can help you craft a strategy ensuring your wishes are honored in the event of catastrophic illness, injury, and even after your death. As part of that process, you can always ask your estate planning attorney for advice about creating your personal legacy.

Let us discuss with you tips on identifying potential heirs and beneficiaries. In our experience, couples without children and singles are often concerned about the distribution of their assets. If you are wondering who will, or should, inherit your belongings after you die, we can help you identify potential heirs and beneficiaries. To do so, we start by first making sure that you understand the difference. 

An heir is legally defined as someone who stands to inherit some or all of your estate if you die without an estate plan in place. This is usually a spouse, child or another close relative. By contrast, a beneficiary is someone who inherits the assets as specified by you in your estate plan. The term may also apply to someone you have named to receive proceeds from your retirement plan or life insurance policy. Bear in mind, if there are inconsistencies in your planning, the proceeds from any such policies or plans will always go to the recipient named in those documents rather than one named in your estate plan.

When you do not have a spouse, or children, depending on your goals for your legacy, your beneficiaries could be be: 

  • Nieces or nephews
  • Siblings
  • Friends and neighbors
  • Nonprofits, causes you care about, or charities

Even if you have children, you may want to consider creating a legacy with any of the groups named above. If you decide you would like to leave part or all of your estate to charity or a nonprofit, there are steps to consider. It is often not as simple as “naming” an institution, we need to dive in to determine the right way to do so. In this instance, we can help you: 

  • Learn more about the groups associated with issues you care about.
  • Assess mission statements, metrics, achievements, and financial transparency.
  • Research relevant planned giving programs.
  • Learn how to create and structure a legacy program through your estate plan.

Finally, we can craft the estate planning tools that facilitate charitable giving. These can include a last will and testament, or a trust agreement. The types of trusts we most often see used in this context include:

  • Irrevocable Trusts 
  • Charitable Lead Trusts, which can allow you to give to the charity for a time period 
  • Charitable Remainder Trusts, which can allow remaining assets to go to the charity
  •  Testamentary Trusts, which are established through your last will and testament  

The latter two trusts mentioned above have the added benefit today of potentially increasing your tax savings. In light of the SECURE Act, as well as your planning goals, these two trusts may be an estate planning tool we should discuss together in an estate planning appointment.

In summary, we are happy to be part of a team dedicated to addressing your immediate and ongoing estate planning needs. Please do not hesitate to contact our law firm to set up an appointment now, or any time.