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Estate plans often include charitable giving & non-family heirs

The average American family looks very different than it did in previous generations. Large families with a lot of kids used to be the norm, but many couples now choose to have between one and three children, and some couples decide to forego having kids altogether.

This change in family structure and an increasing divorce rate have caused a change in the way that Americans think of their estates. When families were much larger, it was often a foregone conclusion that a couple’s entire estate would be divided among their children. But as baby boomers create their estate plans, they are faced with more options.

Boomers with only one or two children may decide to keep all of their estate within the family, but they’ll include grandchildren, nieces and nephews as heirs. Trusts can be a good way to help these relatives pay for college when they get older.

An increasing number of baby boomers and others are choosing to include charitable giving as part of their estate plan. This includes couples without any children as well as those with kids who feel that they have enough wealth to spread around. The charities that they already support are often ones that they want to continue supporting after they pass away.

Still, for others, estate planning involves choosing to bequeath wealth and assets to friends and loved ones outside of the biological family. Neighbors, coworkers, roommates and anyone else who has been a significant part of your life could be named in your will if you so choose.

No matter what you decide to do with your money, property and other assets, it is imperative that you have a solid estate plan in place. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you through the entire process as soon as you’re ready to get started.

Source: The New York Times, "In Estate Planning, Family Isn’t Always First," Caitlin Kelly, May 2, 2014

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