If you are single and not financially responsible for anyone else, having an estate plan might not seem critical. Nonetheless, estate planning can ensure that your wishes are followed both before and after you pass. One element of an estate plan is a will or trust, through which you would specify who will inherit your assets. Perhaps more important for many single people are the financial and health care powers of attorney, which allow you to determine who will help you handle your finances and manage your medical care if you should need help with those tasks during your life. Whether you have never been married, have outlived your partner, or are divorced, having an estate plan in place can ensure that your wishes are honored when you are no longer able to voice those wishes yourself.
If you fail to leave proper documents that specify what to do with your assets at your death, this will be determined by state law. Most states would apportion the assets first to the decedent’s spouse, then to any children, and finally to the closest blood relatives. But you might have friends that you consider family. You might consider a sibling’s children like your own and want them to inherit your assets. You might have a long-term partner that functions as a spouse. You might want your assets to go to a charity.
If you should become incapacitated and have not prepared a financial or medical power of attorney, the state would again make key decisions on your behalf. A court could appoint a distant relative or stranger to act as your agent, but you may have a partner, family member, or friend whom you would trust to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf. A financial power of attorney names the person who you desire be given legal authority to conduct your financial affairs, and a medical power of attorney does likewise for your health care matters.
Though estate planning is often associated with traditional families, single people also need a complete a will or trust and powers of attorney documents. Some easy planning now can ensure that your assets end up in the right hands and that decisions about your assets and health care are made by the people you trust the most.