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Estate planning for those without children

For many New Jersey residents, estate planning may not be so difficult. Many have children, grandchildren and younger siblings, so deciding which beneficiaries to pass down assets to is a piece of cake. However, many older Americans have no children or come from small families and because of this, they may have trouble finding heirs for their assets.

For some Americans, estate planning is about helping others and leaving a legacy. Those without children or close relatives may choose to give away their assets to a non-profit organization, whether it's one in their neighborhood or one who had helped them in the past. They may reflect upon their own values and seek out organizations - such as churches, schools and charities - that share these values.

In addition, many older Americans may be close co-workers, neighbors and friends. That's why they may want to take a close look at their everyday lives and who they come into contact with. Those may be good people to put into an estate plan as heirs. Heirs do not necessarily have to be relatives.

Will planning and the distribution of assets is a personal decision that should not be taken lightly. Although it is assumed that children or siblings will inherit a person's assets, this is not always true anymore. Even when there are many people in a family, they might be left with nothing for personal reasons. Sometimes family members fight over inheritances or heirs may lose ambition and become lazy after receiving a huge windfall. In any case, those who desire to donate their assets after death should make their requests clear to avoid any miscommunication.

Source: NY Times, "In Estate Planning, Family Isn’t Always First" Caitlin Kelly, May. 02, 2014

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