While specific data on estate planning among the childless is hard to come by, studies show that most people fail to put in place even the most basic part of estate planning: a will. For instance, a 2016 Rocket Lawyer study conducted by Harris Poll shows that 64 percent of Americans lack that basic document.
The problem with having no will (called dying intestate) is that your state's court system decides who gets your assets. And on top of property-related considerations are other important estate-planning components, regardless of marital or parental status.
But decisions that can be hard enough for people with family ties or close friends become harder for those without those relationships. When that's the case, advisors start by encouraging people to focus on their interests and tie them to charitable giving.
"I find out what they're passionate about," Keeler said. "When they start thinking about the possibilities and the gears start turning in their heads, it can be a fun conversation."
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Keeler's client, the retired teacher, decided to establish a foundation to award scholarships to college-bound kids who attended the at-risk middle school where she was a teacher. The scholarships will come with certain stipulations, all determined by the client.
Keeler encouraged her to immediately establish her legacy so she can enjoy it while still living. The plan, Keeler said, is for the foundation to award its first scholarship this year.
"I told her if you start gifting money now, you get to see the fruits of your labor," Keeler said. "People don't have to wait until they're gone to do this."
Part of appropriately directing assets involves naming beneficiaries on financial accounts such as 401(k) plans and life insurance policies. Be aware that those accounts do not pass through the will. For instance, if you named your ex-husband as the beneficiary on your 401(k) plan and never updated that information, he will get that money even if your will names your new spouse as your only heir.
An even trickier task than asset considerations can be choosing someone to have medical power of attorney. That designation lets the chosen person make important health-care decisions if you cannot.