It seems that every time a celebrity dies without leaving a will, there is an outcry from fans and critics. Many use the event as a cautionary tale while probate for the rich and famous drags into years and descends into feuds. Nevertheless, nearly 60 percent of adults in the United States have not made a plan for their estates.
You may be among those in California with no estate plan. However, you may think your lack of planning is justified. After all, you have no children and perhaps are not even married. What is the point of making an estate plan if you have no one to inherit your assets?
Why do I need a will if I have no heirs?
In fact, having no obvious heirs is an even more compelling reason to establish a plan for your estate. State probate courts have a succession of heirs. If you die without a will, your estate may go to your parents, siblings, or nieces and nephews even if you have no desire for them to share in your hard-earned assets.
You may have other ways you would prefer to distribute your estate. Perhaps you have a lifetime companion to whom you were never married. Legally, your companion, close friends or special charities have no claim to your assets unless you specify so in a will. Additionally, if you have no heirs or collateral heirs, your assets may end up in the hands of the state.
It's more than just money
Without an estate plan, you may be placing your health and well-being at risk as well. In addition to a will, your complete estate plan can include critical documents appointing trusted people to oversee your finances or speak in your name regarding medical decisions if you should become ill, injured or incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself.
Including powers of attorney in your plan means someone will have authority to pay your bills, manage your affairs and protect your finances while you recover. Your health care power of attorney allows someone to express your wishes regarding whether to accept or withhold certain medical treatments, including your preferences for the end of your life. Your close friends, even a lifetime companion, will not have this authority otherwise without a court order.
Planning is important
The language you use in your estate plan is critical for the establishment of a valid plan. Likewise, you may benefit from advice regarding choosing beneficiaries, executives and powers of attorney. Speaking with an estate planning professional is the best way to obtain answers to your questions and clarification of the options available for your circumstances.