By Robert Snell
If you don’t have a spouse or children, you might think you don’t need to do much estate planning. But if you have any assets, any familial connections, any interest in supporting charitable groups—not to mention a desire to control your own future—you do need to establish an estate plan.
In evaluating your needs for this type of planning, let’s start with what might happen if you die intestate—that is, without a last will and testament. In this scenario, your assets will likely have to go through the probate process, which means they’ll be distributed by the court according to your state’s intestate succession laws, essentially without regard to your wishes.
Even if you don’t have children yourself, you may have nephews or nieces, or even children of cousins or friends, to whom you would like to leave some of your assets, which can include not just money but also cars, collectibles, family memorabilia and so on. But if everything you own goes through probate, there’s no guarantee that these individuals will end up with what you wanted them to have.
If you want to leave something to family members or close friends, you will need to indicate this in your last will and testament or other estate planning documents.