No Close Family? 2 Big Reasons Estate Planning Still Matters

When people talk about estate planning, it's often in the context of protecting your family financially after your death. If you don't have children, if you've never married or you've outlived your spouse, and if you don't have any close relatives, it's easy to think that you don't have to worry about estate planning. But the truth is, if you don't have any family in your life, estate planning is still important for you. In some respects, it may be more important. Check out a few reasons why.

End-of-Life Decisions

Estate planning not only encompasses what happens after you pass away, it also determines what happens if and when you reach a point where you can no longer take care of yourself, make medical decisions, or control your own finances.

If you were to become incapacitated, who would take care of you? Would you want to stay in your home, with care from a friend or an in-home healthcare worker? Would you want to go to a nursing home? And if you would prefer a nursing home, would you like to decide which one? Who will manage your funds and ensure that you can afford to pay for your preferred type of care?

These are just some of the questions that need to be answered, and it's arguably even more important to have them in writing if you do not have family to take care of you. If you have children or a spouse, you may be able to assume that they will act in your best interests. If you have no close family, however, those decisions may end up being made by a stranger, and may bear no resemblance to what you would actually want. The same goes for the question of whether or not you would like to have a Do Not Resuscitate order in place or whether you'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Estate planning allows you to make these decisions yourself ahead of time, and appoint someone, whether it's your attorney or a friend, to ensure that they're carried out.

Your Inheritance

Even if you have no close family members, anything you leave behind will go to someone. Your assets are supposed to be distributed to your next of kin, if you don't specify otherwise. That could be a family member that you're estranged from or a distant cousin that you've never even met. And if no family at all can be found, chances are that the state will end up keeping your assets.

Chances are good that you have a few friends, even if you don't have family members, or a charity that you support. You can choose to leave your assets to a friend or your preferred charity. Occasionally, people decide to leave their assets to their city or town in order to benefit the local residents. Or you may want to leave your assets to a local organization that has meaning to you, like a church or school. Most people would prefer any of these options to having their assets disbursed to someone they've never met or having them absorbed by the state.

It's not uncommon for seniors to find themselves without any living close family members. An elder law attorney like James M Snow will be familiar with this type of situation, and can help guide you in creating an estate plan that meets your needs and preferences. Don't leave important questions about your wishes unanswered. Visit an elder law attorney in your area to create an estate plan.