If you are unmarried and have no children, you are probably not financially responsible for anyone else. Does this mean you are exempt from having an estate plan? The answer is a resounding no.
You still need to have a plan in place to ensure your wishes are followed both before and after you pass on. Even simply having a Last Will and Testament drafted puts you ahead of the game.
Studies have shown that the majority of Americans fail to put in place even the most fundamental and basic estate plan document – a will. For example, a 2016 study conducted by Harris Poll revealed that 64 percent of Americans lacked a written will, according to CNBC.com.
Important Considerations for a Single Individual
An estate plan goes beyond simply allocating your assets after you pass on. An estate plan includes financial and health care powers of attorney. These documents allow you to determine who will help you handle your finances and medical care if you should become incapacitated.
If you have never been married, were pre-deceased by your spouse, or are divorced, having an estate plan in place can help ensure that your wishes are honored when you are no longer able to make those decisions for yourself.
Consequences of Not Having a Will or Other Estate Planning Document
If you fail to leave proper documents that specify what to do with your assets, you die “intestate.” This basically means that your assets will be distributed by a court following a strict set of state laws. In Missouri, courts typically apportion the first $20,000 of the assets to a spouse, then divide the reminder as 50% to the surviving spouse and 50% to any children. If there is no spouse and no children, then the assets are sent to the closest blood relatives. If you are unmarried and have no children, that may mean a distant cousin or sibling will inherit your assets, even if you were not close or had a tenuous relationship with them.
If you have friends that you consider family, they will be left out in the cold. 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. As you can see, a single person still has a tremendous amount of power they can exercise over their estate.
If you should become incapacitated and have not prepared a financial or health care power of attorney, the state would again make key decisions for you. For example, a court could appoint a distant relative or stranger to act as your agent, even if you have a long-time partner, family member, or friend whom you trust more to make these types of important decision. This is why having a financial power of attorney is so important. Whoever you designate in this legal document is bestowed with legal authority to conduct your financial affairs. Similarly, a health care power of attorney does likewise for medical matters.
As you can see, single people need a complete will or trust to address their estate. Planning now can ensure that your assets end up in the right hands and important decisions about your health are made by the people you trust the most.
Contact the practice today to learn more about why having an airtight estate plan is key.