Over the last two decades, the prevalence of DINKs (dual-income, no kids) has grown significantly. It's much more common today for married couples to not have children - for some people, it's just not in their plans or desires, and that's totally okay. But not having children is not a reason to bypass estate planning.
Married couples still need planning, in the absence of children, for three main reasons:
1. Health Care Planning
A key aspect of estate planning includes the creation of advanced directives and appointing health care agents to act on your behalf should something result in your incapacity. Setting out your health care wishes is extremely important, especially should you be near the end of your life. This is something that is not changed by the presence or lack of children. You need to take care of yourself, and health care planning is something that helps you during your life, not after death.
2. Charitable Planning
A common question that couples without children have to answer is: "what should happen to your assets after the survivor of you passes away?" Good question. Have you given much thought? "What do I care? I'll be dead" is not a good answer, either.
If you have a specific project or charity, or church for that matter, that you would like to benefit directly, that sort of gift must be made either during your lifetime or through your will or trust. The last thing we want is for your hard-earned money to go to the government, right?
3. Protecting Spouse or Partner
Planning to pass ALL of your assets to your spouse or partner often requires a will. In North Carolina, there are some assets that cannot be beneficiary designated and will be controlled by your estate, with or without a will. If your parents are still living, your surviving spouse will have to split your estate with your parents if you don't put a plan in place. If you have significant wealth, it can also be very important to plan for the purpose of minimizing or eliminating estate or capital gains tax issues.
Planning is even more important if you're not married to your partner. Non-married couples are never included in each others' estates if they are not named in each others' wills - the state law does not allow it on its own. So, without planning ahead, you could inadvertently cut your partner out of your estate.
So, even if you have no children, planning is still important.