For some reason, many of the people who come to my office are under the impression that only married people need estate plans. I've never figured out why that's the prevailing wisdom when it's usually people who aren't married who need them the most. For example, if you aren't married and you get sick, who would the doctor speak to about your care? And if all of your accounts are in your name alone and something happens to you, who is the person who should be managing your finances?
Clients who have previously been married are often the first ones to come in the door after their divorce to make sure that they get their estate plan updated. But if you aren't married and you don't have an estate plan, now's a good time to get that ball rolling as well.
Wills for Single People
It's a common misconception that if you are unmarried, you don't need a will. So, if you die without a will (called "intestate" in legal terms), then the state where you are living will decide what happens to your assets. Your local laws have a process that will need to be followed to distribute your assets and pay off your debts. Depending on what assets you have at the time of your death, a court may or may not need to be involved. If there's no will and there's real estate that needs to be sold, then a court will likely need to issue an order to allow for someone to make that sale. Once all of the assets and liabilities have been identified, the court has a specific structure for how to determine who is entitled to inherit your assets.
For some people, this intestate process is perfectly acceptable to them. Hopefully, they've met with an attorney and are comfortable with the way that their state would distribute their estate. But it's more common that you would prefer to be the one to say who gets your assets and how they should be distributed.
An Estate Plan is More Than Just a Will
This is where the common misconception becomes so important. An estate plan is more than just a will. When you are preparing a plan, you are often including other documents in the plan, like:
In addition to these documents, you may also want to consider a HIPAA Authorization. The core purpose of these documents is to make sure that the right person is making decisions if you become sick and are unable to speak for yourself. If you run your own business or manage assets in an active way, the power of attorney will make sure that someone you trust is able to protect you while you are sick. These are important documents for anyone to have, regardless if you are single or married.
What If I Don't Have Kids?
Another misconception that some people have is that if they don't have kids, they don't need a will. But there are plenty of people in this type of situation who could benefit from an estate plan as well. I would actually tell you that it's even more important for you because there's no one naturally around to inherit from you or make decisions for you if something happens.
An estate plan is a simple, but powerful, way to protect your legacy, whether you are married or not. It can make sure your legacy goes to the people you love, rather than a form distribution laid out in your local laws...
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If you've been considering a will and now realize you need a full estate plan, or if this is the first you've heard of it and you would like more information, let's set up a Legal Strategy Session to review the best options for you.