If you are single or in an unmarried relationship and do not have children, there is still plenty you can and should do to ensure your property and assets are handled according to your wishes after you die. Everyone needs an estate plan. In fact, everyone has an estate plan – either the one they create for themselves or the one created by their state law.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
In Florida, if you do not have a will when you die a court will distribute your property depending on state intestacy laws. This is called “intestate succession,” and typically results in your property being distributed to your spouse, children, parents, or siblings. However, if the court cannot locate any surviving heirs, your property may “escheat to the state” which means the State of Florida would become your unintended beneficiary.
Protecting your Pets
You may not have two-legged children, but instead may have four-legged children who wear fur coats. These are your pets who are also valued members of your family. A popular way to plan for pets is to create a Pet Trust that ensures they will have lifetime care in the event of your disability or death. Animal Care Trust USA, Inc., is the nation’s only charity dedicated to helping pet parents keep loved pets in loving homes. They can help you with the preparation of a Pet Trust and/or act in the role of Pet Trustee. For more information, you can visit their website at www.ACT4Pets.org.
Donating to Charity
If you don’t have family or a life partner and you aren’t planning for your pets, you still need to have a plan. There are lots of ways to include charitable beneficiaries as part of your comprehensive estate plan. In addition to outright distributions to a charity, there are a variety of other options to consider including charitable remainder trusts and donor-advised funds. In a charitable remainder trust, assets are first distributed to a lifetime human beneficiary and then the remainder is donated to charity.
A donor-advised fund is similar to a private foundation. It allows you to benefit 501(c)(3) charitable organizations after your death by recommending charitable organizations as grant recipients. You can also create a donor advised fund during your lifetime and start your philanthropy now.
Charities make great beneficiaries for tax-deferred retirement or annuity assets because the charity doesn’t have to pay any income tax. The charity will get the full benefit of the assets left for their cause.
Leaving Assets to a Friend or Life Partner
If you want to benefit a friend or life partner, you’ll have to have a written estate plan. The law doesn’t protect those people that aren’t legally related to us. If you are in a long-term, but unmarried relationship, having a well-designed and thought out plan is a must. Even gifts to friends during your lifetime can pose some challenges. You can get more information about planning for friends and unmarried partners in Loving Without a License – A Survival Guide for Unmarried Couples and Same Sex Partners, by Peggy Hoyt.
It’s time to consult an attorney
As central Florida’s leading estate planning and elder law firm we are ready to help you navigate the complexities of your estate. Call the Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan at (407) 977-8080 or contact us online to speak to an estate planning attorney today. We have office locations in Oviedo and Altamonte.