Estate planning is typically thought of as a family affair. This is because individuals most often leave their assets and property to their spouse, children and grandchildren. So do people without a spouse or children even need an estate plan?
The answer is an emphatic “yes.” In fact, single people are arguably more in need of certain estate planning documents, including a living will, power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney. Of course, wills and trusts are important as well.
If you’re single, you should know that you’re in good company. In the past few years, the number of single adults in the United States (age 16 and older) has surpassed the number of adults who are married.
There’s no longer a stigma associated with being single, nor is there a stigma associated with not having children. But in a very practical sense, not having a spouse or children can lead to some serious complications if you suffer a debilitating injury or illness.
In most cases where a person becomes incapacitated and unable to communicate or make decisions on their own behalf, that responsibility falls on their spouse (or their children if arrangements have been made). But there is no automatic transfer of decision-making authority if a person has no immediate family. That’s why it is especially important for single people to designate power of attorney, medical power of attorney and draft a living will.
Additionally, drafting a will is important for single people because there is no presumption of inheritance by a spouse or children. If you want control over where and to whom your assets will go, a clearly written will is the best way to achieve that outcome.
Estate planning is not just for the “old” and the “wealthy.” We all need an estate plan. And if you’re among the slim majority of Americans who are single, estate planning cannot afford to wait.
Source: Main Street, “5 Items Singles Need to Handle Their Worst-Case Estate Planning,” Brian O’Connell, April 22, 2015
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