Branching Out: When Assets Don't Stay in the Family Tree
In today's world, the so-called "American dream" does not always involve children. Whether this is a conscious decision or due to an inability to procreate, the result is the same; it is becoming increasingly common for individuals to die without traditional heirs (i.e. children or grandchildren) to whom they can leave their assets. In contrast, these individuals are finding other ways in which to donate their worldly possessions.
Notwithstanding the lack of traditional heirs, far too often individuals forego making a Will, choosing instead to let their assets pass under the laws of intestate succession. But, everyone, even those without a large family tree or favorite family members, can and should make their wishes known in a Will. With some forethought and reflection, everyone can create a plan that best suits their wishes.
A favorite charity, alma mater, or religious organization can serve as a wonderful beneficiary of your estate. Estate planning is not just about who gets what, but has a deeper meaning - what is your legacy? What causes are most important to you? What organization is closest to your heart? What values do you want to support after you are gone? The answer to these questions is not always easy, but taking the time to consider them is always worth it. In addition to these philanthropic tendencies, you may be inclined to leave your estate to close friends whom you consider to be family. But without forethought and planning, your generosity will prove to be fruitless.
So, if you do not have a traditional family, or simply do not wish to leave them your assets, consider putting an estate plan into place that best suits your wishes.