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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Single's Guide to Estate Planning

What basic estate planning documents should single people have in place?

While many of our estate planning clients are married couples, we also encourage single individuals to create an estate plan. Of course the concerns and needs of singles differ, but is equally vital for these individuals to have a comprehensive plan to protect their assets.

By failing to have a will and other essential documents in place, the state's laws will determine how assets are passed, usually to close relatives such as children, parents and siblings. If there are no living relatives, the state may acquire these assets. In either scenario, these decisions may  not agree with a person's wishes, or disputes can arise between those who believe they are entitled to an inheritance.

Estate Planning 101

The first document a single individual needs to have is a will which establishes how assets will be distributed, designates an executor to probate the will, and names guardians for minor children. Choosing an executor requires designating someone who is trustworthy and capable, such as a relative or close friend. In the alternative, an attorney can be appointed. It is essential to specify who should inherit and individual's home, other personal property and items that have sentimental value.

It is also crucial for single individuals to establish who will be responsible for making financial and healthcare decisions in the event they become physically or mentally incapacitated.

By creating a durable power of attorney, a single person can name a family member or trusted friend who understands financial matters to  manage their personal and financial affairs. In addition a medical power of attorney, or healthcare proxy, names an individual to make decisions about medical treatment and care when a single person is unable to communicate his or her preferences.

Lastly, for those who have life insurance plans and retirement plan assets, it is crucial to ensure these designations are up-to-date and are aligned with the estate plan.

The Takeaway

Many single people mistakenly believe that don't need an estate plan either because they have no significant assets or don't have children. Another mistake many individuals make is using form documents taken from the internet to plan an estate. In short, it is crucial to engage the services of an experienced estate planning attorney who can help create a well designed plan that protects your assets and ensures your wishes are carried out.


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