The importance of estate planning for single people

Everyone needs an estate plan, especially single people

Many single people mistakenly believe that estate planning is only something that people with spouses or children need to worry about.

In fact, it is the opposite that is true. Single people need estate plans even more than married people do, because they don’t benefit from the same assumptions married people enjoy about who will make important medical and financial decisions if they become incapacitated or inherit property if they pass away. Even long-term romantic partners don’t have the same automatic rights and privileges that a husband or a wife does.

If you are single and don’t have an estate plan in place (or if you haven’t updated yours in a long time), it is worth scheduling some time to talk to a lawyer. Here are a few things to think about in advance of that meeting.

Who will manage your finances?

If something were to happen and you became incapacitated, who would pay your bills and manage your financial affairs?

Even if you have a friend or family member who would be willing to step in and handle these issues for you, they won’t be able to get access to your accounts unless you have given them prior authorization. The best way to do this is with a durable power of attorney.

If you don’t wish to have a friend or relative take on these responsibilities, your attorney can help you locate a professional fiduciary to fill this role.

What are your healthcare wishes?

If you were in an accident or suffered a serious medical event like a stroke, how would you want to be cared for? Would you want to be resuscitated if it meant that you might have permanent impairments? Would you want to remain on life support, or would you want to pass away naturally?

Expressing your wishes in writing helps avoid the stress and conflict that can arise when your loved ones have to guess about your wishes. Your attorney can help you write up a plan that will protect your desires should something unexpected happen. In addition, you can name someone to make medical decisions if necessary. Again, this can be a trusted loved one or a professional.

Who should inherit your property?

Under Missouri law, if a person dies without a valid will in place, their assets are distributed in a process called “intestate succession.” Basically, this process passes a deceased person’s property to their closest living relatives.

Many people would prefer their assets to be distributed in a different way. Perhaps you want some of your money to be distributed amongst your nieces and nephews. Maybe you want to give your art collection to a friend, or make a donation to your favorite charity.

A will is the best way to ensure your assets go where you want them to after you pass. Consider updating your will periodically, especially if there are changes to your family or financial status. For more complex plans, it may also be in you and your heirs’ best interests to have a trust created.