Should You Create an Estate Plan If You Have No Heirs?

An estate plan is crucial as it ensures all your interests and wishes are met at the time of your passing. Estate planning is the process in which you decide how your estate will be divided upon your death. This plan typically includes drafting a will, health care proxy, power of attorney, and a letter of intent, and in some instances a trust. Those who do not have heirs in which they can divide the estate may not see a point in proceeding with estate planning but passing without these documents drafted will lead to your own interests not being met. This results in your estate being given to an outsider or claimed by the state in which you reside. Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney guarantees that all of the documents you need to draft and execute are done with the intent of preserving your interests when you pass.

Should You Create an Estate Plan If You Have No Heirs?

Not Having An Estate Plan, Even Without Heirs:

Having no heirs such as a spouse or children should not stop you from creating an estate plan. If you end up passing away without a will or immediate heirs, your estate may not go to a person that you would have liked to have chosen. When you pass, depending on the state in which you reside, your estate will follow an inheritance hierarchy. This hierarchy usually is distributed the following way: surviving spouse, children, then grandchildren. If none of these are identified, then your estate can be given to grandparents, parents, nieces, nephews, siblings, and sometimes the state. When you do not have a will in place and have no heirs, your estate can be claimed by the state and used for the public good.When you decide not to create an estate plan because you have no heirs, you are giving the power to the state to decide what is done with your assets. This is why creating an estate plan is crucial in making sure you decide what is done with your estate when you pass, despite the possibility that you may not have heirs. Here are some options as to what you can do in the case that you may not have immediate heirs.

Your Options:

  1. A Relative: Anyone can inherit your assets except the attorney drafting your will. One option for those who do not have any heirs is a relative. When drafting your will you can choose to designate a relative as your beneficiary meaning they do not have to be immediate family but can also include an aunt, uncle, or cousin. This option allows you to designate an individual who you want to receive your assets when you pass rather than the state claiming your assets. An outsider inheriting your assets will be avoided when you create an estate plan before you pass even if you do not possess any immediate heirs.
  2. A Friend: Not every situation is the same and those who do not possess both immediate relatives or any relatives in which they would like to designate as the beneficiary of their estate may want to appoint a friend. When appointing a friend you will be able to ensure your assets are not being handled by an outsider or the state and your interests are still met. Many individuals have friends that they consider more like family and your estate can be left to them if you do not possess any heirs. Keep in mind some states issue inheritance taxes that tend to be higher for nonrelatives than for relatives. So you should take this into account when designating a nonrelative as the beneficiary of your estate. To be sure of the estate laws in your given state, speak with a local estate planning attorney who can advise you as to which strategies you could take to avoid or decrease inheritance taxes.
  3. Charitable Organization: Have no relatives or friends that you would like to leave your estate to, but don’t want it to be left to an outsider or the state? You may also designate a charitable organization as the beneficiary of your estate. This process depends on personal factors and if you prefer a family member having oversight over this or not. If you decide to leave your estate to a charitable organization, you should make sure to consult a tax professional and financial advisor to ensure your charitable goal is met in a tax-efficient manner. This option allows you to fulfill your goals of being charitable and reflect your decision of which charitable organization you would like to receive your assets when you pass.

All three options allow for you to ensure your interests are met. When you pass, your assets will then be distributed to reflect those interests and not distributed to an outsider or claimed by the state in which you reside. 

Speak with An Estate Planning Attorney

An estate planning attorney will make this process of estate planning easier and will guide you to making the right decisions to reflect your specific situation whether you have heirs or you don’t. An attorney will not only help you draft the documents needed for your estate plan. Those without heirs will also be advised as to what steps they take in order to designate an agent as their power of attorney and healthcare proxy in the case that they become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney gives an individual the right to handle your financial and legal affairs. A healthcare proxy, also known as a healthcare power of attorney, allows a person to make medical decisions on your behalf, if you are no longer able to do so for yourself. Additionally, a living will be created that indicates the medical interventions you would like or wouldn’t like to occur in order to keep you alive. All these decisions must be made before you pass and put into place especially if you have no heirs, as the state can make these decisions for you and it will be out of your hands. An attorney will advise you of your options and help you create the best estate plan for you so your assets will not be given to an outsider or claimed by the state but rather reflect your interests when you pass.

For further Estate Planning inquiries please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at 718-333-2394 to best prepare for your future in selecting an attorney that works best for your needs.