Estate Planning For Singles

According to the United States Census Bureau, almost half of the adults living in America are single. Traditionally, many individuals opt to leave their estate to their loved ones. However, for single individuals with no beneficiaries, it might be less clear what to do with those assets. To learn more about estate planning for singles and other estate planning concerns, consider contacting an experienced attorney from Von Rock Law by calling (866) 720-0195 to schedule a consultation.

What Is Estate Planning?

The United States Department of the Interior states that estate planning refers to an assortment of legally binding documents, such as trusts, powers of attorney, and Last Wills and Testaments (wills), which outline how to handle a person’s assets after the person becomes incapacitated or dies. Estate planning aims to reduce or remove taxes due when an individual dies. Additionally, it can prevent a person’s estate from undergoing probate, which can be a lengthy legal process where the state determines the deceased individual’s heirs and decides how to distribute his or her assets.

Why Is It Important for Singles To Plan Their Estate?

Regardless of a person’s relationship status, estate planning is crucial. Having a will, trust, or power of attorney in place can help to ensure the correct distribution of a deceased individual’s assets. Estate planning for a single person, in particular, may be critical for allowing that person to enforce his or her wishes regarding the distribution of assets o the individuals or causes the person cares about.

Understanding Intestacy Laws

When someone dies without leaving a will, it is known as dying intestate. The state distributes that person’s assets according to state intestacy laws that correspond to the individual’s marital status. For instance, if the deceased individual has no surviving family members or spouse, the person’s assets transfer to the state. When a married person dies, his or her spouse receives half of the estate with the other half transferring to any surviving children, unless there is no surviving spouse or children, in which case the whole estate transfers to the surviving party.

In contrast, when single individuals die without a will, the surviving siblings and parents receive equal parts of the deceased person’s estate. However, if one of these family members dies, the remaining siblings or parents receive that person’s share. If the individual has no surviving siblings or parents, the deceased person’s other surviving family members will inherit equal shares of the estate.

Unmarried Individuals With Partners and Children

When an unmarried person with a partner dies without a will, the state is likely not to transfer any of the deceased person’s assets to the surviving partner. Because of this, if an individual wants to leave his or her assets to a surviving partner, having a will in place that outlines this wish is essential. Otherwise, the deceased individual’s assets are likely to transfer to any surviving family members instead, even if the surviving partner had shared finances and children with the deceased individual.

For single parents, it is crucial to have an effective estate plan. Without this type of planning, the surviving children may end up with a guardian that the parent did not choose. Additionally, if a former partner previously lost custody rights, he or she may regain those rights if there is no estate plan dictating a trusted person to be the children’s new guardian. If you are single and have a partner or child, a lawyer from Von Rock Law may be able to offer advice concerning estate planning for singles.

Single Individuals Who Own Businesses

If a single person owns a business, having an estate plan in place will allow that person to determine who inherits the company and any restrictions he or she may want to impose on beneficiaries. For instance, having an estate plan enables single business owners to leave a partner, family member, friend, or colleague shares in the business. Even if a single business owner has no partner or children, he or she may want to determine what happens to certain assets in case of death. If major life changes happen, such as marriage or children, an established estate plan can be adjusted as needed at a later date.

How To Plan a Single Person’s Estate

Planning a single person’s estate includes the following three main steps:

  1. Learn about the roles in an estate plan
  2. Assign people to the appropriate roles
  3. Inform the parties and record the individual’s wishes

Learn About the Roles in an Estate Plan

To plan a single person’s estate, start by learning about the different roles in an estate plan. These positions include:

  • Executor—The executor follows the deceased person’s wishes outlined in his or her will, including distributing assets to the intended beneficiaries
  • Personal representative—This is the person assigned to enforce medical decisions made by an incapacitated person or to make those decisions on his or her behalf
  • Beneficiary—A beneficiary is an individual or entity that receives benefits from the deceased person’s estate
  • Attorney-in-fact—This individual can make decisions on behalf of people who are away for travel purposes or who become incapacitated
  • Guardian—A guardian is responsible for caring for any surviving pets or children
  • Trustee—If establishing a trust to look after a minor’s financial affairs until he or she is of age, the trustee is responsible for managing that trust

Assign People to the Appropriate Roles

After learning about the estate planning roles, consider which family members, friends, or colleagues to assign to these positions. Make sure that each individual will be able to fulfill the responsibilities and duties of the role. For instance, it is a good idea to choose a trustworthy, organized, and responsible person to act as executor of the estate.

Inform the Parties and Record the Individual’s Wishes

After assigning the various roles in the estate plan, inform the named individuals of the decision. The next step is to record the person’s wishes. The exact documents required to do this vary depending on the circumstances and how the person wants to administer his or her estate. Generally, estate plans require several key documents, which can include a will, power of attorney, and a health care directive.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

Unlike married individuals, single people may not have direct beneficiaries, so careful estate planning is necessary. An estate planning attorney can help single individuals with advice regarding how to distribute their assets once they pass away. To find out more about estate planning for singles, consider contacting an experienced estate planning attorney from Von Rock Law by calling (866) 720-0195 to schedule a consultation.

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