When it comes to estate planning, the focus is often on married couples. For those who never married, are widowed or are divorced, the importance of estate planning is sometimes overlooked.
While estate planning for singles has always been important, the increasing number of singles is making it even more important. The unmarried now represent just under 46% of women and 30% of men over the age of 55, according to 2019 U.S. Census data. For singles, these are three of the most important things to consider when thinking about estate planning.
1. Establish Your Power of Attorney
When you’re married, you don’t have to think about who will speak for you when you’re unable to speak for yourself—it’s a role that’s assumed by the spouse almost by default. That’s a luxury that singles don’t have and must plan for. Find someone you trust and designate him or her as your power of attorney in case you become incapacitated.
There are two general types of power of attorney documents. A durable power of attorney goes into effect as soon as it’s signed. A springing power of attorney only goes into effect once certain circumstances have occurred. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you decide which makes more sense for your situation.
2. Name Your Dependents
If you have children, this is likely a non-issue, as your kids are probably at the forefront of your estate plan. But even if you don’t have children, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are without dependents. You may be the primary caregiver for an aging parent, a sick friend or sibling. If there are loved ones in your life who depend on you for caregiving or financial assistance, you may want to name them as beneficiaries on a life insurance policy in case anything happens to you.
3. Don’t Forget a Will
If you die without a will, a court will assume the role of allocating your estate. This is known as intestate succession. If you are single, dying without a will is problematic, since courts will try to find any blood relative to give your assets to, no matter how remote the relationship, and regardless of whether or not you were even aware of their existence. If no relative is found, the state takes the assets. In other words, your assets might go either to someone you’ve never met or to the state.
If you have friends or charities that you specifically have in mind to inherit your assets, it’s critical that you have a will stating your wishes to make sure your estate is distributed accordingly.
Plus, your estate could end up paying more in taxes and probate fees if you don’t have a will. One thing to remember is that intestate succession does not affect all your property. Things like life insurance policies and retirement accounts that have named beneficiaries will still go to whomever you named on the policy or the account, whether you have a will or not.
This is just the tip of the iceberg; every individual and family has unique challenges when it comes to creating their estate plan, and single people should take extra care to review their plan to make sure everything is in order. Whether it’s your children, your siblings, your friends or a charity that you want to benefit from your estate, a complete estate plan can help make sure that your wishes are met and loved ones are taken care of.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor.
JD, CFP®, Series 7 Securities Registration,1 Series 66 Advisory Registration,† Life and Health Insurance License Kate has been a financial planner at Wealth Enhancement Group since 2007. Previously, she assisted in the management of trusts and portfolios for high-net-worth clients. She is involved with the Roundtable™ and provides her expertise to help walk clients through the best way to organize their estates to ensure their assets are passed in the most...Read More