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Even without child heirs, estate planning is key

Having an estate plan is important for everyone, but in the absence of children, it becomes even more critical. In most cases, children are natural heirs when their parents pass, so the absence of a will may not impact the ultimate result. For Florida singles and couples without children, unintended consequences and courtroom battles often substitute for a peaceful distribution of assets. A case in point is the extended legal maneuvering associated with the estate of the famous musician Prince Rogers Nelson, whose assets remain tied up in court.

With a thoughtful estate plan, individuals can ensure that their estates will be distributed in line with their preferences. For example, when a wife dies, her assets generally pass to the husband. However, if he dies soon after, his ex-spouse may inherit her property, which may not be what the woman wanted. Trusts and other instruments can be used to affect the will of the deceased in such scenarios. Estate planning is also key to navigating incapacitation due to injury or illness.

The heart of any estate plan is a will and contingent powers of attorney that can be triggered by events such as medical incapacitation. In the absence of a legal marriage, critical decisions may be placed in the hands of parents or siblings who may not be preferred decision makers. Since powers of attorney typically expire upon death, having a will with a designated executor is also essential. The decision to grant someone power of attorney or appoint him or her as executor is an important one that should account for both character and demeanor. Spouses are typically the default choices, although every situation is different and requires independent analysis.

A qualified estate planning attorney can eliminate problems before they develop through foresight and consideration of contingencies. Dealing with estate issues in advance is invaluable to heirs and gives peace of mind to everyone involved.

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