Estate planning is just as critical, if not more so, for singles as it is for married couples—and it is only partially due to naming who you will leave assets to when you die. A recent article from AARP, “6 Estate Planning Tips for Singles,” explains how estate planning addresses support during challenging life events.
Estate planning addresses medical and financial decisions for a person who is unable to make those decisions for himself/herself whether due to accident, injury, illness, or simply for convenience. For singles, selecting their appointees may be more complex questions to answer.
Whether someone has never married or is divorced or widowed, these are challenging questions to answer. However, they must be documented. In addition, singles with minor children need to nominate a trusted person (guardian) who can care for their children and their if they cannot. Estate planning addresses all of these issues.
To be sure you complete this process, start with a conversation with an experienced estate planning attorney such as Rose Kennedy in Berks County, Pennsylvania. This will help with accountability, ensuring that you start and finish the process.
Here are some pointers for singles who keep putting off this vital task :
What would happen if you do not leave clear instructions about who will make medical decisions (both for positive treatment, as well as at end of life) in case of illness, injury or incapacity? A doctor who doesn’t know your wishes will decide for you. For example, if you don’t want to be placed on a ventilator for artificial breathing or fed by a stomach tube while in a coma, the decision will be made regardless of your wishes. Having a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will/Advanced Directive is necessary for every adult.
Dying without a Will is known as dying “intestate.” All of your assets will be distributed according to the intestate succession laws in your state. This may not be what you want.
Part of your estate plan includes naming a personal representative—an executor—who will oversee your affairs after your death. You will want to designate someone who is organized, has good judgment and can handle financial matters. You should also name a backup, so that if the first person cannot or does not wish to serve, there will be someone else to take control. Otherwise, the court will name someone who doesn’t even know you to take on this task.
Your estate plan may include the following:
Last Will and Testament. This is where you nominate your executor, heirs and how your assets will be distributed to your heirs. You can also appoint a guardian for minor children. Note that anyone named as a beneficiary on a retirement, insurance policy, or investment account supersedes any instructions in your will, so be sure to update those and check on your beneficiary designations every few years to be sure they are still aligned with your wishes.
Revocable or Living Trust. This is a legal entity which will own assets currently to be given to beneficiaries, managed by a trustee of your choosing. There are a few reasons for a Revocable or Living Trust including if you own out-of-state property. We at Curran Estate & Elder Law are happy to provide you with more information about these types of standalone trusts.
Financial Power of Attorney. This document authorizes someone you name to act as your Agent and make financial decisions and handle your financial matters if you cannot. A Financial Power of Attorney can prevent delays in accessing bank and investment accounts and paying your bills. The Financial Power of Attorney ends upon your death and is of the utmost importance to have in place.
Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will/Advance Directive. These documents allow you to designate someone to communicate your health care wishes when you cannot. For example, this person can speak with your doctors to make surgical decisions and authorizations, set up rehabilitation and nurses, and so much more if you cannot do so yourself. In your Living Will, you can include instructions on pain management, organ donation and your wishes for life support measures and appoint a relative or close friend to ensure your directives are met. A single person, particularly, will want to have these healthcare documents in place, as there is no spouse who would potentially be able to make these decisions without these documents. You will want to ensure that your significant other, siblings, parents, or close friends have full authority regarding your health care matters.
Be sure to communicate your wishes with family and friends. Also, tell your appointees where your documents may be found, and consider giving them copies of your Powers of Attorney and Living Will, thus providing them with the information they need to act on your behalf.
Reference: AARP (April 7, 2023) “6 Estate Planning Tips for Singles”
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