What happens to an estate if you have no spouse or children?

Many people may not be aware of what happens to their assets if they pass away without a spouse or children. Whether you are married or not, or have children or not, a will is an important tool for you to bequeath your possessions according to your preferences.

Generally speaking, those that pass away without a will have their estates divided according to intestate laws. Each province is different, but the general idea is that the courts try and find the next of kin – whether that is a sibling, parent, niece or nephew, or cousin. This could possibly result in a person inheriting your estate that you may not have preferred to receive all the wealth you’ve accumulated over the years.

Creating a will allows you control over where your assets go if you have no spouse or children to leave them to. You may leave assets to charities, or to other individuals. You can discuss with an experienced estate lawyer how best to bequeath these assets. There may be certain provisions that could lower your estate taxes, and that allows a charity or organization to receive the full value of the asset.

Or you can leave them to a common-law partner or close friend. Generally, some assets tend to pass directly to a spouse. But putting specific instructions regarding a partner when you are not married can help you leave assets and provide for domestic partners or friends.

One of the issues with individuals who do not have a spouse or children is naming an estate trustee. While it’s common to name a spouse or adult child as the estate trustee, that does not always have to be the case. You can designate whomever you like – notwithstanding basic requirements like being over the age of 18 and other estate law rules. This role can go to one person or multiple people. It’s generally advised that you should discuss this role with the designate before you make it official so that each person is one the same page and has the same understanding of what will happen after you pass.

The best way to identify your estate options you do not have a spouse or children is to consult with an experienced estates lawyer. He or she will be able to tell you what you can and cannot do, and how to resolve any conflicts or explore any alternatives that you wish to address.

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