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Estate Planning Matters Even If You Have No Heirs

Legal and estate planning documents

It’s no secret that we believe everyone can benefit from well-thought-out estate planning.  For parents, proper estate planning means not only that their assets will go to their children, but also that they have a say in how and when that property is managed and distributed (e.g., through a trust), among other benefits.  Some clients believe that estate planning is only important for parents or others with specific heirs in mind.  There are, however, plenty of benefits in creating an estate plan.  Continue reading for a discussion of the effects of estate planning, and contact a Twin Falls estate planning attorney at Canyon River Law with any additional questions. 

Estate plans help you while you are still alive

While one of the main functions of an estate plan is to determine the distribution of your assets after your death, that is not the only function.  A comprehensive estate plan can make sure that you are protected while you are still alive in the event that you are unable to make decisions on your own behalf.

Idaho adults are legally guaranteed the right to make decisions about their property and finances while they are alive, provided they have legal capacity.  Legal capacity means you have the mental and emotional ability to govern your own life and assets.  If you lose your capacity to make decisions, for example due to an injury or an illness such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, then the law steps in to protect you by making decisions on your behalf.  An Idaho court may appoint a guardian to make decisions for you regarding your health care as well as your finances and other property; without an estate plan, that guardian may be a complete stranger. 

In your estate plan, you can establish a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a power of attorney for health care so that you can choose a specific person who will look after your money and your property, as well as make decisions about your healthcare.  This preempts the need for a court to appoint a stranger or some other person to do these things for you.       

Estate plans keep your assets from going to the government

Even if you do not have children, you likely still care where your money, property, and assets are distributed after your death.  If you have no will and the law determines you have no heirs, then the government has the right to collect everything held in your estate.  While some people are fine with this outcome, many people who do not have direct heirs would still rather see their assets go somewhere in particular other than to the government, for example to a school, a charity, or a friend’s family.  Even a basic estate plan can ensure that the bulk of your assets go where you prefer them to go instead of to the government to absorb and utilize however it wishes.

You can choose to use your assets to help people

Rather than letting your assets go to the government with no input on how they will be used, you may prefer to pick a worthy cause to benefit from your life’s work.  You can decide that your assets will go to one or more charities or charitable purposes, or go to a specific person or family in need.  Even if you truly have no heirs, by choosing a good cause for the distribution of your assets, you can leave a legacy behind that positively impacts people and for which you will be remembered.

If you’re an Idaho resident and want to create a thorough estate plan to ensure that you are protected in life and that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, contact Canyon River Law at 208-736-6000.

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