Estate planning is often viewed as a process that is undertaken by those who want to pass wealth to their family members. So, this begs the question what one does when he or she doesn't have an immediate family. Should such an individual forego estate planning altogether? The answer is no, and here's why.
There are many components to estate planning. Sure, while a will and trusts can be utilized to leave assets to loved ones, powers of attorney and health care directives can ensure that you have a trusted individual making important decisions on your behalf in the event that you are not able to make them yourself. If you don't specify someone to make those decisions through these estate planning documents, then your health and financial wishes may be left to the whim of someone you don't even know.
Even wills and trusts can prove beneficial to those who don't have children or a spouse. Those who pass away without an estate plan will have their assets distributed in accordance with state law. This may mean that a distant cousin or long despised uncle could claim a significant portion, or all, of your estate. If the mere thought of that irks you, then you'll want to consider developing an estate plan. Only then can you ensure that your assets will be distributed on your terms.
And, in a nutshell, that is the true beauty of estate planning. You can dictate the future of your estate, thereby allowing you, in a way, to live on. You can financially benefit those you care about, even if it's a charity or a pet, and you can place restrictions on the distribution of those assets to ensure that they aren't squandered. If this sounds interesting to you, then it's time you sit down with an estate planning attorney to discuss your options.