Estate Planning for Singles

When we talk about estate planning, I spend a lot of time talking about spouses and children. What about the single people? If anything, estate planning may actually be more important for single people, not less!

Handling incapacity

For married people, selecting someone to handle their financial affairs and medical decisions is usually pretty easy: generally the spouse or one of the kids is named as the decision maker. If there’s no spouse or children, then it may become more difficult. Of course, I’ve already laid out some guidelines about picking people to handle your stuff if you can’t, and all of it still applies.

Who do you pick, then? For single people in their 20s and 30s, parents might be viable choices. However, as both you and your parents age, they may eventually not be the best choices. In those situations, you might also consider other family members that are close in age, like siblings. Additionally, there’s no rule that says you can’t select close friends or long-term partners for these roles either.

Transferring property

The biggest issue for single people is that without an estate plan, their property will pass according to the intestacy statutes. In Missouri, what that means is that the first people that will receive your property are your spouse (this is about single people, so that’s not an issue) or any children that you may have. If you don’t have any children, then your parents and siblings would be next in line, and on through your family tree.

Maybe that works fine.

But what about a long-term partner that you aren’t married to? What about your favorite cause, or the college you graduated from? What about other family members that might not be first in line? That’s where the intestacy statutes won’t be of much help, and planning is that much more important.

For single people, estate planning is still important; if anything, the fact that many unmarried people don’t have the obvious beneficiaries and decision makers–namely spouses and children–makes estate planning critical for single people.

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Photo credit: Flickr user Will Scullin, licensed under CC 2.0


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