Estate planning is a deeply personal process that touches just about every aspect of one’s life. For most families, a lot of the process centers around setting up one’s children and helping the next generation have a better life. However, for those families that do not have children, the process looks a bit different, but not necessarily any easier.
No children means no need for a will, right?
Wrong. Remember that without a last will and testament, everyone one has will pass as determined by the state. This includes, potentially, what happens with one’s body, both pre- and post-death, and all of one’s assets. No one wants that to happen.
Second level beneficiaries
First, couples will need to figure out their second level beneficiaries. This refers to those people not their spouse because, after all, it is extremely rare for couples to die simultaneously. And, while some provisions should plan for this simultaneous death, their must be other provisions that relate to those second level beneficiaries, especially since the passage to these secondary beneficiaries usually has to be done through a court proceeding.
Same designated beneficiaries
Second, do not forget to elect the same designated beneficiaries. Of course, both spouses will have language for the other spouse, but property that goes to the second level beneficiaries should be the same for both spouses. This will ensure that there is not competing wills, which could throw a litigation bomb in the entire probate process. Ultimately, competing wills could mean that only the surviving spouse’s wishes are followed.
Finally, remember that an estate plan can be changed after one dies. This means that the surviving spouse could, theoretically, change the estate plan to delete all of the deceased spouse’s beneficiaries. To avoid this, consider a revocable living trust. This can lock the first deceased spouse’s share of an estate, while still allowing for the surviving spouse to utilize those assets.
The key here is entering the process with an open mind and being completely truthful with each other. This is why we always recommend contacting a Richmond, Virginia, estate planning attorney.