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Estate Planning Without Immediate Family

For some people, deciding what will happen to their assets after they pass away is easy. They simply leave their possessions to a surviving spouse or their children. For those in Massachusetts without children or any immediate family members at all, the decisions that come along with estate planning can be more complex.

Those who never married or had children or whose spouses have preceded them in death may consider siblings, cousins or even nieces and nephews as beneficiaries. Others may want to leave their assets to close friends or a favorite charity. In cases like these, it is important for those making wills or trusts to consider who has influenced their lives and what kind of a legacy they wish to leave behind.

Possessions are often easier to distribute to friends or more distant relatives. A niece may enjoy a Nancy Drew collection, while a friend who is an avid knitter may be a good choice for an extensive yarn collection. For those who want to make an impact on the world even in death, leaving monetary assets or high-value possessions to a charitable organization or cause can be an option. Organizations that have made a direct impact on a person’s life or causes that the person supported in life are popular options.

While this type of estate planning is often done by those who do not have immediate family members or those who are estranged from their families, even those with direct descendants may choose to forgo the traditional route of splitting assets between the children. Estate planning should be a thoughtful and deliberate process to ensure that assets are distributed according to a person’s wishes and not just what is expected.

Source: The New York Times, “In Estate Planning, Family Isn’t Always First” Caitlin Kelly, May. 03, 2014

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