One of the most important steps in the estate planning process is naming an eligible heir for your estate. For many individuals, this is not an overly difficult decision, as they typically have immediate relatives, such as children, to delegate their estate to. However, this is not the case for every individual. Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly common for couples to choose to have a child-free life. For people in these situations and other similar circumstances, what is there to be done? Family Law Group can explain.
Is Estate Planning Still Necessary?
For individuals that cannot easily name an heir for their inheritance, they may be wondering if it is necessary to estate plan. The answer to this question is yes. Without an estate plan or will, your money and possessions will likely end up in the hands of someone that you do not want in control of it.
What Is The Typical Inheritance Hierarchy?
In typical estate planning situations, there is an established hierarchy that individuals rely on when making decisions about delegating their estate. This hierarchy flows like this:
Surviving Spouse or Partner → Children → Grandchildren
If you cannot identify these individuals or are single with no dependents, you may choose an individual such as one of the following as an heir:
Nieces and Nephews
Uncles and Aunts
Great Grandparents and their descendants
Commonwealth of Virginia
If you do not have a will or do not name a next of kin, the state will otherwise lay claim to all of your assets. The legal term for this process is known as becoming escheated. It is always best to name someone yourself rather than allow the state to assume control of your estate.
Are Their Alternatives to Typical Heirs?
If you still cannot name an individual as an heir in your estate plan, there are still other options besides giving the state control. While creating your plan, you may designate a beneficiary to inherit all of your assets. This person or person could be relatives, friends, or a charitable organization of your choice. One key element to keep in mind is that you cannot name the attorney or individuals involved in drafting your will.
If you want to donate all or a portion of your estate to a charitable organization, consider the following options:
Charitable remainder trusts
Before making any major decisions, make sure to consult an experienced attorney and financial advisor.
Are There Issues Beyond Money?
The individuals named in your estate plan do more than just assume control over your estate. Many individuals use their estate as an opportunity to name a power of attorney for their finances or health, in the event they become incapacitated. If you do not have an obvious next of kin, it is especially important to name someone that you trust to make these decisions.
What If Nobody is Named?
It is still possible that some individuals choose to not name anyone in their estate plan as an heir. If these instructions are missing or not in place, what happens? Well, the state may choose to determine who your next of kin actually is. This could be an individual that is distantly related to you or you are not familiar with.
Are You Still Unsure About Your Heirs?
Estate planning is vital to ensure that your assets and estate are appropriately managed and according to your wishes after you pass. If you do not have any obvious heirs or are unsure of what steps to take next, consulting an attorney can help. Family Law Group can help you make informed decisions about your estate plan.
Reach our team today at (703) 552-5072 for more information about the estate planning process.