Estate Planning for Singles

Today, there are more singles than ever before. With the divorce rate being 50 percent for first marriages and even higher for second and third marriages, it’s not surprising that America has a large single population.

Are you single? Whether you’re divorced, widowed or never married, you need to be just as concerned about estate planning as married folks. In the absence of a spouse and sometimes decedents, single people have unique circumstances that require the help of an experienced professional.

What types of issues do singles face?

When a husband or wife dies intestate (without a will), their assets generally pass to their spouse. What about a single person? Since assets are usually passed to the closest blood relatives, children (if any) would be first in line, followed by parents, siblings and more distant relatives.

Family can be complicated. What if you don’t have any children, but the last thing you want is your estate going to your drug-addicted father who hasn’t spoken to you in 20 years?

To ensure that your estate passes to your sister who has three kids, or to charities dear to your heart, you’ll have to create a will and/or a trust that clearly outlines how you want your assets distributed.

Other issues to consider:

Naming Beneficiaries: A lot of your estate may be tied up in beneficiary designations. Bank accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance policies all pass outside of a will and directly to the beneficiary. If you are divorced, you want to ensure that your ex-spouse isn’t still named as a beneficiary on any of your accounts.

Financial and medical decisions: If you are injured or fall ill, you could end up incapacitated. For a single person, it’s important that they designate a trusted family member of a friend to manage their assets and healthcare in case they are unable to.

If you’re single, you’ll need an advance healthcare directive, a general power of attorney, and a HIPAA authorization, which allows you to choose someone you trust to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf.

We are only scratching the surface on estate planning for singles. We recommend speaking with an estate planning lawyer to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes.