Estate planning has become a hot topic these days for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, many childless families have put off the estate planning process, thinking that, since they do not have children, an estate plan is not an urgent concern. However, this is simply not the case as a childless estate plan is essentially the same as an estate plan that includes children, with the exception of child guardianship documents.
Children versus second level beneficiaries
In an estate plan that has children, the second level is the children and the first level is the spouse. So, in a childless estate plan, the second level of beneficiaries is the first order of business. Many childless estate plans are written as if both spouses will die at the same time, and while some language for this should be included, realistically, spouses will die separately. This means that spouses must select their second level beneficiaries.
If each spouse’s second level beneficiaries list is the same, then there is no issue with competing wills. This can be extremely important because the spouse that dies last’s beneficiaries will likely control. If the list is the same though, then this issue will not arise, but it is important because a contested or competing will can explode estate litigation costs.
In addition to the potential of competing or contested wills, there is also the possibility that a surviving spouse could change an estate plan after their spouse passes. Of course, changes and updates are normal, but they could change it to exclude the deceased spouse’s beneficiaries, in direct contradiction of the original estate plan. This can be avoided through a revocable living trust, but at that point, Las Vegas, Nevada, residents should contact an estate planning attorney.