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Wills are just as important for those without children

Many Georgia residents who don't have children may believe that they don't need a last will and testament. However, estate planning experts say just the opposite. In fact, a will might be even more important for an estate owner without obvious heirs.

When a person dies without a will or trust, property is disposed by the state laws of intestate succession. Generally, these laws place the priorities of distribution to blood relatives in various "classes" of relation. For example, parents will receive the property only if no spouse or lineal descendants exist.

For those without children, a friend may be closer to the person than a distant uncle. But in order to ensure the property is distributed to the close friend, a will or trust is needed. If not, the state will direct property to the blood relative. As the final act of control over the property accumulated over a lifetime, the will or trust is the vehicle for completing this act. A trust can make property disposition easier by avoiding court probate procedures.

Documents that ensure management of property in the event of incapacity are also important for estate owners without children. When powers of attorney for financial affairs and health care decisions are executed, the grantor selects a person who he or she trusts. Failure to have these documents may lead to an expensive guardianship or conservatorship battle. In these instances, the court will appoint a person to handle these affairs, sometimes a complete stranger.

When an estate owner without children meets with a qualified estate planning attorney, various options will be presented. The estate owner should go in with a list of priorities and questions ready to ask. In most cases, the concerns of the client can be addressed through estate planning tools.

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