With an increasing portion of the U.S. population deciding not to have children, there is a growing need for estate planning that focuses on alternative options for family legacies and succession. For example, approximately 20% of the baby boomer generation do not have children. As these individuals age, they will be more likely to rely on friends and extended family as resources concerning their financial and physical well-being. This also impacts who they select as the beneficiaries of their estate.
Older adults without child dependents are in a unique financial position in that they did not have to pay the typical costs associated with parenthood. (The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that it costs $245,000 to raise a child from birth to 18 years old, which does not include high education costs). They may also have had more time to save income and contribute to their bank accounts and other investments. In addition to drafting a customized estate plan to preserve wealth for future beneficiaries or charitable organizations, an adult who does not have children may consider bringing on a fiduciary. This is a person who has a legal or ethical relationship to an individual; they are authorized to act on your behalf concerning money, investments, or other financial assets. For an adult without children, his or her fiduciary can be a member of their extended family, a trusted friend, or someone hired for their expertise in finance. The same applies to selecting the executor of your estate – the person responsible for managing and distributing your assets after your death. Many parents name one of their adult children as the executors of their estate; however, this role could be filled by an extended family member, a close friend, or even a professional will or trust administrator.
In addition to financial well-being, older adults who do not have children (and do not plan on becoming parents) should also be cognizant of their future physical well-being. As adults age, health issues make it more difficult to get around and be independent. Whereas a parent may rely on adult children for assistance, those who do not have kids need to turn elsewhere. They need a plan in place concerning their long-term care. Adults without children typically have more time to form strong bonds with their friends or with younger relatives (ex: nieces, nephews, younger cousins, etc.). These friends and family members can absolutely serve as your health proxies – the important part is that they understand your values and end-of-life decisions, and are willing to implement these medical choices on your behalf. No matter who a person chooses as their health care proxy, they should communicate their wishes to their proxy and also memorialize those wishes in power of attorney and advance health directive documents.
On the surface, it may seem like estate planning is more straightforward for parents because of their responsibilities to name guardians and provide for their children. But estate planning is also important for adults who do not have children. Careful and customized estate planning can help safeguard your future, protect your wealth, and preserve your legacy. For more information, or to set up an estate planning consultation, visit the Siedentopf Law website at AtlantaLegalRemedy.com or call us today at (404) 736 – 6066.
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