When a person in Maryland thinks of creating an estate plan, their first choice of beneficiaries may be their children. However, what if a person does not have children? How does this affect their estate plan?
In general, childless couples have two main decisions to make when estate planning. One decision they'll have to make is to designate someone to take care of their monetary and medical needs should they become unable to do so themselves. The second decision they'll have to make is what to do with their property and assets after they pass away.
When it comes to making the first decision, couples may want to create health care directives assigning someone as power of attorney should the creator of the document become incapacitated. Although spouses may want to designate one another to this important role, there should be a backup plan that designates a younger person to take on this role either simultaneously or after the initial designee passes away or can no longer function in such a role. This way a person's medical and financial needs will be taken care of by someone who is able to do so.
With regards to the second decision, spouses should consider creating some sort of estate plan to disburse their property. Without an estate plan, their assets will be subjected to intestate succession during the probate process, meaning the state will decide who will inherit the deceased's property. Creating a will or trust can ensure that certain family members, friends or charitable institutions are designated as a person's heirs per that person's wishes. There are a number of options, such as a "sweetheart" will that names the spouses as beneficiaries and then dictates what is to happen when both spouses pass away. Another option is a joint revocable trust, which has the added advantage of side-stepping the probate process.
As this shows, even childless couples have to contemplate their death and create an estate plan. Health care directives, wills and trusts are all important documents that need to be carefully prepared in order to be valid. However, with the right help, couples can create an estate plan that meets their needs both prior to and after their death.