How Should I Plan my Estate in Virginia if I Do Not Have Children?

            Many people in Virginia automatically assume that you only need an estate plan if you have children.  However, this statement is far from accurate.  In fact, estate plans are perhaps even more important for individuals with no children.  While people with children are often concerned about preserving their wealth for future generations, this is usually not the case for childless couples.  For couples without children, without an estate plan, state law decides who will inherit their assets.  As a childless couple, you want to make sure that your surviving spouse is taken care of, your pet will have a new home, the charities that are near to your heart get supported, and your wishes for your own end-of-life care are respected. 


Health Care

            Health care decisions are often easier to make for couples with children than for couples without children.  For couples with children, if they become ill, they can likely turn to their children for assistance.  However, when a childless couple is trying to choose a health-care agent, they may have to consider a longer list of prospects, such as nieces, nephews, friends, clergy, etc. When picking an individual to fulfill this important role, it is imperative that the choice be someone who is good at acting in crisis situation, someone who is willing to accept the responsibility, and someone who the couple feels will honor their wishes. 

            It is also necessary to think about long-term care insurance.  Couples without children who are financially secure may be willing to pay out-of-pocket for long-term care if preserving assets for heirs isn’t a priority.  However, if the couple is not wealthy, long-term care insurance may be necessary. 


Asset Distribution

            Childless couples also need to think about who will get their assets after they die.  Many people incorrectly believe that assets should only go to your children, so childless couples often find themselves in a bind.  However, couples may pass their assets to virtually whoever they would like, such as a niece, nephew, friend, brother, or sister.  Couples can even include their beloved pets in their estate plan. 

            Some couples choose to leave all of their money to charity.  More complex planning through charitable trusts are an effective way to save on income and estate taxes, secure a monetary benefit, and give to charity. 


Prevent Exploitation 

            It is a sad fact that as people age, they become more susceptible to financial exploitation.  This is particularly true for couples who do not have children or grandchildren to keep a look out for this type of exploitation.  Therefore, establishing a long term care and financial plan early on is extremely valuable.  By creating this type of plan, childless couples can engage the correct parties, such as professionals, friends, or more distant family members to carry out their plan.  Additionally, an estate plan that includes specific provisions to avoid future exploitation should be created. 


            Estate planning is extremely important for everyone.  Whether you are married, divorced, or a couple without children, it is important to create a plan.  By thinking ahead, you ensure that your wishes are solidified on paper and your wishes are made known to the loved ones you leave behind.  In order to make sure you do not leave your important assets to the state, it is important to make sure you speak with an attorney and create estate planning documents.  Call the attorneys at Smith Strong at (804) 325-1245 or (757) 941-4298 to determine what types of estate plans are right for you and your family.  Additionally, if you think you need a jump start on figuring out how to develop an estate plan, you can register for our free Estate Planning Workshop at  

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg