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Estate planning for couples without children

Families have changed and more couples in Kent have decided not to have children. This presents new issues for estate planning because, among other things, these couples tend to have more education and higher incomes. Childless couples will save the estimated $233,000 cost of raising, without college tuition, a child who was born in 2015.

Designation of guardians for younger children or setting up trusts are not a concern for these couples. However, they need to begin planning for other important matters.

First, the establishment of financial powers of attorney and drafting a health care advance directive allows these couples to authorize an agent to oversee health-related and daily financial matters if either spouse or partner becomes incapacitated and cannot make decisions. The agent's responsibilities include important health matters, financial transactions and supporting other family members.

A financial power of attorney authorizes the agent to make decisions on the extent and timing for specific financial transactions, claims and gifts. A health care advance directive pertains to health care power of attorney, living wills and release of medical information under HIPPA. These health care powers authorize an agent to manage and specify end-of-life wishes and who can receive the patient's medical information.

Childless couples have fewer concerns about preserving wealth for their descendants. However, they still have assets that may be left to family, friends or charities. An estate plan allows couples to efficiently plan for the distribution of property such as who receives their assets and when. Otherwise, a court may make these decisions, which may not confirm to the couple's wishes.

Couples may also consider the creation of a charitable remainder trust. These trusts allow couples to live off their assets until they die when the remainder of the trust is distributed to charity.

Some couples may elect to create a separate charitable trust when they have substantial or complicated charitable gifts. This is an irrevocable trust that effectively lowers income and estate taxes and contains directions for charitable giving.

Households comprised of unmarried couples have grown by 133 percent since the early 1990s. Creating a will, trust and powers of attorney can provide legal and financial protection if one partner dies or becomes incapacitated. An attorney can assist couples with planning that furthers their wishes.

Source:, "DINKs need estate planning too," Patrick Carlson, May 30, 2017

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