Whether by choice or as a result of unfortunate circumstances, if you find yourself with property and assets but no one to leave them to after you are gone, you might think there is no need for an estate plan. After all, what would the Will say if you have no heirs? The truth is that even without a spouse, children, parents, close friends, or other family members, you probably have an idea of where you would like your money to go after your death—or at least where you DON’T want it to go. Without an estate plan, however, it will be up to the state to determine what happens to your assets.
Dying Without a Will
If you die without a Will, your state of residence will follow its intestate laws for probating your estate and distributing your assets. In both Texas and Arkansas, the laws say that your assets will go to the closest living family member, according to a set hierarchy. Even if you are not aware that you have living relatives, if the state can locate them, they will inherit your estate. If no family members can be found, your assets will go to the state.
Options for People With No Heirs
Instead of strangers—or the state—inheriting the property and assets you spent a lifetime building, you have options for distributing money in a meaningful way. Some possibilities that might make sense for you include:
- Choosing a charity. You can name your church or favorite charity in your Will, designate them as the beneficiary of your retirement account, or set up a charitable Trust.
- Endowing a scholarship. If you have significant funds, you might consider establishing a scholarship in your name. You can determine the criteria for the scholarship to leave a lasting legacy.
- Supporting your alma mater. You might want to support the university or private secondary school you attended by leaving a bequest in your Will or creating a Charitable Remainder Trust.
- Caring for a pet. If you are worried about beloved pets who might be left behind when you die, you can set up a Trust to ensure their care.
- Making a surprise bequest. An heir does not have to be a family member or even someone you know well. You could choose a worthy individual to inherit part of your estate without even telling them you have done so.
While some of these options can be accomplished through a simple Will, you can maximize the gift you leave by establishing a Trust. Your estate planning attorney can help you determine the best way to accomplish your goals.
Leaving a Meaningful Legacy
You don’t have to have close family or friends in order to think about how you want to be remembered after your death. Working with an estate planning attorney, you can design a plan that puts your assets and property to good use after you are gone. Contact one of our northeast Texas offices to start planning your lasting legacy today.