More than half of adults in the United States are single.
Whether never married, divorced or widowed, singles need to pay more attention to estate planning than married persons. Unlike married persons, singles have no spouse to take care of them nor to provide for. They may not have children to perform either function.
Singles have to address a number of critical issues in their estate plans.
Who do they want to be their beneficiaries? Married people usually choose to benefit their spouse and descendants. That may not be an option for singles. Singles may choose other relatives, friends, or causes that they care about. If a single person dies without a will or trust and has no living relatives, their property may go to the state, which might be their first choice, but probably is not.
Where will they live when they become disabled? Having valued their independence as singles, they are not likely to want to move in with relatives. So appropriate planning for long term care is important.
What can be done to mitigate taxes? Singles usually pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes. Are there some effective strategies to reduce their tax burdens?
Single persons should consult competent and caring counsel who will help them in such important choices.
Single persons should establish a plan for their personal care and their property during the portion of their lives that they are disabled. They should say the things they like and don’t like and the care they want and don’t want during times of incapacity. That can be done through a personal care plan and a healthcare directive with appropriate agents authorized by powers of attorney. Singles should identify what resources are available to provide for their care and authorize an agent under a general durable power of attorney to handle their financial transactions.
Singles may desire protection for their estate from potentially predatory future spouses.
To see that their remaining assets go to the relatives, loved ones and charitable organizations that they want to receive them, single people should create a will and trust that specifically states how and to whom they’d like their assets to be distributed. Digital assets should be addressed. Beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, insurance policies and investments should be reviewed and made clear and consistent with present desires, not to former spouses or friends.
Without careful planning, important decisions may be left to state-appointed strangers.
Singles who establish a complete and effective estate plan reduce anxiety and increase their sense of purpose, showing that their life is meaningful.