Beneficiaries? No Easy Answer

I’m filling out forms to receive payments from one of my late father’s investments. The man had money in many pockets. I wish he had spent some of it on himself and my mother. It’s too late now, and I know I am blessed to have it. The monthly payments will make up for the job I no longer have. (See previous post) BUT the forms want to know who my beneficiaries are in case I die before the money runs out. What to put in these blanks is obvious for people who have spouses and children. It was easy for my father, but I’m stumped. Can I leave it to my dog?

These are the sorts of things in life that frazzle the childless widow. That and questions like “Why are you saving all this stuff?” and “How many grandchildren do you have?”

It’s the same thing when I have to fill out medical forms listing who to call in case of an emergency. I don’t know. My brother lives too far away to be any immediate help. I list friends who I hope are in town and in good health when I get in trouble. So far, that has worked out.

How I wish I had children whose names and contact information I would know as well as my own to plug into those blank spaces on the forms.

I’m reading a novel that takes place in a Native American community where all of the older women are “aunties,” no matter whether they gave birth or not. I think that is my role, too, at this point. I am going to list my niece and nephew as my beneficiaries. After all, they are my father’s grandchildren as well as my closest younger relatives.

Having some money to give away offers a chance to be creative. Who could I surprise with extra money if I die? Some of my friends could definitely use the cash. But I can’t surprise them. I need their social security numbers for the form, and they might be insulted if I decided to play benefactor. Can I leave it to an institution? Which one? I need to do some research and consider some options that might not be available to parents because, as a childless auntie, I can.

How about you? Are there situations in which your lack of children sends you into a brick wall that parents sail right over?


8 thoughts on “Beneficiaries? No Easy Answer

  1. Sue, I struggle with some of those same questions as a fellow childless widow. Even to know who my executor should be when I die. Now those roles are filled with friends who are my age or older and I know I will someday need to replace them with a younger generation. But it won’t be MY younger generation. I have designated charities to get a portion of my estate so that might actually be an option for you. And who can forget Leona Helmsley leaving millions to her dog!?


  2. I recently went away for a couple of weeks and hired a cat sitter as my 83 y/o mom can’t manage it anymore. She was very thorough, asking questions. Which vet, how sick, what if it’s bad. Then she asked . . . if something happened to me, who would take the cats?

    Good grief. Now I need to name a guardian for the cats.

    I think I’m heading in the direction of a trust. I’ll start an endowment or do a charitable donation. There are professional executors. It doesn’t matter at that point, I guess. I know at some point I will need to figure out who will collect and bury me. There are no close family members at all.

    Funny I mentioned this stuff years ago to my stepson and his wife. (I knew many years ago that I would be divorcing). All the pictures of family in the basement. His wife immediately said that they would want them. But I told her that these were of my family and my stepson didn’t know any of these people. I don’t hear from them much at all (I was married for 23 years), and I wouldn’t expect them to drop everything to step in with health decisions, estate, etc.

    I told my “friend” (not naming, not jinxing) that maybe we might find a young family-less couple down the road. Maybe someone whose parents are around to pass down those skills or recipes. Maybe.


    • I had to name a guardian for my dog when I hired a new pet sitter. I volunteered my neighbors, then checked later to make sure it was okay. It was fine. They love Annie. Of course, if we had children, they might not want our pets, so we’d still need someone else.


    • I just spoke to a person yesterday who told me that their elderly neighbors were like second grandparents to their children. They mourned when the older couple passed. When the property sold, my friend looked on in horror as the children of their former neighbors come to “clean house.” Most of the deceased’s belongings ended up in a dumpster parked next to the home. Even family photos! My friend and her children went “dumpster diving” and rescued a few treasured mementos that they couldn’t bear to see trashed. Later they did pass on the family photos to people who cared. Here is proof that having children doesn’t mean anything in terms of legacy and even material possessions. This is why I intend to constantly be making friends and authentic connections. I want to be missed. I want the things I own to be loved and valued. It makes me sick to think that something as silly as my beautiful prom dress could end up in a dumpster instead of bringing joy to someone, somewhere.


  3. Sue my husband had a hard time with me naming friends as beneficiaries in my will, but he called an older and wiser friend who explained to him this is perfectly normal in my situation. I’ve named friends, friends’ kids, cousins’ kids and non-profit organizations in my will. As far as the pets go, I listed which friend’s kid gets each. It took a long time to sort it out, and I’ll probably change it along the journey every now and then. I empathize completely–this is an awkward and poignant reminder of my childlessness (as if I needed one).


  4. Can I add a thought? I am childless, but have a husband. I am also lucky enough to have a reasonable amount of money I inherited from an elderly uncle.

    I am an only child, so no nieces and nephews, but there are some on my husband’s side. We live in the same community as them, but rarely ever see them (Christmas and their birthday, when they call in briefly to collect their present).

    Hubby says we should leave any money we have and house to them. I think, why should we? We have no relationship with them. We have argued about this in the past, and consequently, have not made a will.

    So, you widows, its not all rosy having a husband. They can be a bloomin’ nuisance!


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