No Kids? What Happens to My Estate?
Just because you don’t have children or heirs doesn’t mean you should not write a will. If you decide to have children later on, a will can help protect their financial future. However, even if you die with no children, a will can help you ensure that your assets will go to the people, institutions, or organizations of your own choosing. As a result, estate planning is necessary for everyone.
Claremont Portside’s recent article entitled “What Happens to Your Estate If You Die With No Children” says that your estate will go to your spouse, unless stated otherwise in your will. However, in Louisiana, the rule is much different. In Louisiana, if you die without a will and without children, all of your separate property is inherited by your biological family. These inheritors can include your siblings, neices and nephews and your parents. In Louisiana, only community property is inherited by your spouse if you die without a will and without children.
Fortunately or unfortunately, property owned by most spouses is community property. You may want your one-half share of your community property to be left to your spouse. However, if you spouse dies soon after you, all of your property will wind up in the hands of his or her children (likely from a prior relationship) or your spouses siblings.
There is a better way. You can provide in your last will and testament that your one-half community property share is subject to a “usufruct” for life in favor of your spouse, then at your spouse’s death, your one-half share of your community property could be left to your family, such as your siblings or neices and nephews.
When it comes to separate property, problems can about in that area as well. Even if a person has separate property, many people without children want their separate property to be inherited by their surviving spouse. You can provide that your separate property be subject to a “usufruct” in favor of your surviving spouse, then at his or her death, the separate property could devolve to your extended family. This is particularly important when a married (or unmarried) couple are living in the house owned 100% as separate property by one of them. Without proper planning, the survivor can be left homeless.
The best way to make certain your estate goes to the right people, and that your loved ones can divide your assets as easily as possible, is to write a will. Ask an experienced estate planning attorney to help you. As part of this process, you must name an executor. This is a person you appoint who will have the responsibility of administering your estate after you die.
It’s not uncommon for people to appoint one of their children as the executor of their will. But if you don’t have children, you can appoint another family member or a friend. Select someone who’s trustworthy, responsible, impartial and has the mental and emotional resources to take on this responsibility while mourning your death.
You should also be sure to update your will after every major event in your life, like a marriage, the death of one of your intended beneficiaries and divorce. In addition, specifically designating beneficiaries and indicating what they will receive from your estate will help prevent any disputes or contests after your death. If you have no children, you might leave a part (or your entire) estate to friends, and you can also name charities and other organizations as beneficiaries.
It’s important to name who should receive items of sentimental value, such as family heirlooms, and it’s a good idea to discuss this with your loved ones, in case there are any disputes in the future.
Even without children, estate planning can be complicated, so plan your estate well in advance. That way, when something happens to you, your assets will pass to the right people and your last wishes will be carried out. Ask an experienced estate planning attorney for assistance in creating a comprehensive estate plan.
To read more about planning without children, read these other great articles: Planning for Singles and Does a Married Couple without Children Need a Will? and What Do I Need to Know about Second Marriage Estate Planning?
Reference: Claremont Portside “What Happens to Your Estate If You Die with No Children”