Effective estate planning is just as important, if not more important, for people without children as it is for people with children.

There are two main issues that people without children need to address in their estate plans: who you want to make end of life decisions for you and what you want done with your assets when you pass away.

The first issue can be addressed by executing general powers-of-attorney and health-care documents that name a person who will make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.

You can name a spouse as this person, but as an article from the Wall Street Journal explains, it is best to name at least one other person, preferably a younger person, to hold the duties simultaneously or in succession.

The reason it is wise to choose more than one person is in case you outlive your first choice.

The second issue has to do with deciding where you want your property to go. If you die without an estate plan in place, your estate will be transferred according to state law.

If you are married, your assets will likely automatically go to your spouse, and then to your spouse’s heirs when your spouse dies, which could mean disinheriting your family members.

It could also potentially result in your assets going to the state if there are no remaining heirs.

In order to make sure that you are able to leave something to friends, family members or a charity of your choice, you will need at least a basic estate plan in place.

According to the Journal article, the simplest way to do this for married couples is by executing  “sweetheart” wills, which leave everything to each other and then spell out who gets what after you are both gone. 

For non-married people, a basic estate plan is also needed unless you are happy with how your property will be transferred according to state law, which in Connecticut is explained here.

An experienced estate planning lawyer can be very helpful at answering your questions about estate law and making sure that you have an effective plan in place that meets your needs.