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Estate Planning Considerations For Single Adults Without Children

Many people mistakenly believe that only married couples with children require estate plans. However, estate planning holds even greater significance for single individuals without children. The reason lies in the fact that the law establishes certain assumptions for married couples regarding financial and medical decision-making in case of incapacitation, as well as property inheritance after death. Single individuals, however, need to proactively address these matters through estate planning to ensure their wishes are respected and their assets are distributed according to their desires.

Estate Planning Considerations

Who’ll Inherit Your Assets?
It’s critical for single people to execute a will that specifies how, and to whom, their assets should be distributed when they die. Although certain types of assets can pass to your intended recipient(s) through beneficiary designations, absent a will, many types of assets will pass through the laws of intestate succession.

Those laws vary from state to state, but generally they provide for assets to go to the deceased’s spouse or children. For example, the law might provide that if someone dies intestate, half of the estate goes to their spouse and half goes to the children. If you’re single with no children, however, these laws set out rules for distributing your assets to your closest relatives, such as your parents or siblings. Or, if you have no living relatives, your assets may go to the state.

By preparing a will, you can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, whether to family, friends, or charitable organizations.

Who’ll Make Financial Decisions On Your Behalf?
It’s a good idea to sign a durable power of attorney. This document appoints someone you trust to manage your investments, pay your bills, file your tax returns, and otherwise make financial decisions should you become incapacitated.

Although the law varies from state to state, typically, without a power of attorney, a court would have to appoint someone to make these decisions on your behalf. Not only will you have no say in who the court appoints, but the process can be costly and time consuming.

Who’ll Make Medical Decisions On Your Behalf?
You should prepare a living will, a health care directive (also known as a medical power of attorney), or both to ensure that your wishes regarding medical care — particularly resuscitation and other extreme lifesaving measures — are carried out in the event you’re incapacitated. These documents also can appoint someone you trust to make medical decisions that aren’t expressly addressed.

Absent such instructions, the laws in some states allow a spouse, children, or other ‘surrogates’ to make these decisions. In the absence of a suitable surrogate, or in states without such laws, medical decisions are generally left to the judgment of health care professionals or court-appointed guardians.

Contact us for assistance if you fall into the category of being single without children and have questions around estate planning.

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