“All to my spouse, then in equal shares to my children,” or “all to my children in equal shares.” This is a common set of instructions we estate planners see with our clients. What if we don’t have a spouse, or children? What if we don’t have siblings, or aren’t particularly close to those siblings, emotionally or in proximity?  

We are allowed to leave our assets (under trusts, wills, or beneficiary designations) to our “family by choice.”  (Note: Under Massachusetts law we are not allowed to disinherit our spouse, generally)

Society and intestacy (no will) laws are not on our side says Reid Weisbord, a professor at Rutgers Law School. Professor Weisbord has “helped write two major textbooks on estate planning, [but this] situation is not one he has considered in depth – “[o]ur society can be really biased against people who don’t have children or aren’t married.” “

It’s a wonderful freedom to be able to provide something for those we “want to” rather than those we feel “we should,” but as with most freedoms it can feel overwhelming and hard to start.

We may also need to ask some of those same friends to act as our Powers of Attorney, Health Care Agents, Executors (Personal Representatives) and/or successor Trustees.  

We need to be more deliberate and have affirmative conversations. A bonus can be that your friend has been thinking of the same thing and may ask you to reciprocate in one or more roles. It can be a phenomenal way to kickstart a discussion on “community” and how we can all look out for each other.

This may feel super hard to get started, but once you have it’s wonderfully affirming to feel we are helping friends or organizations we really want to support and give ourselves incredible peace of mind that our support system is legally and emotionally in place.

If this describes you, let’s talk.  Here is a link to set up a no-fee consult with me.

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