If you're not married, do you really need an estate plan?

Obviously, as an estate planning attorney, you probably know my answer is going to be yes, you do need an estate plan. But you may be thinking, I don't even know what an estate plan is. So how would I even know to get started? So first, let's talk a little bit about what documents would be in your estate plan. Some common documents for your estate plan include,

Last will and testament that document says what happens to your things after you die.

Second document is a healthcare power of attorney. If you become incapacitated, and you're unable to speak for yourself, that document appoints somebody else to make legal decisions for you when it comes to your health care.

The third document that works with that one is a HIPAA authorization, so that whoever your agent is who's making medical decisions can have access to your medical records, and you want them to be informed before they make some of these big decisions.

The fourth document you may run into is a durable power of attorney. Now like the healthcare power of attorney, this comes into effect when you're unable to manage your finances. In this case, you're appointing somebody else to make a financial decision for you. Now, if you've ever purchased real estate before, you've probably run into this as well. Let's say you're unable to attend a real estate closing many places will allow you to use a power of attorney so that somebody else can sign the paperwork on your behalf

Finally, if you're not married, you have kids. It's especially important if they're under 18 To have a guardian guardianship designation so that if something happens to you, there's somebody there who can take care of the kids while you are incapacitated. And if you're worried about what happens if you're gone that's the whole point of having your will, is the will say who will be the guardian of your children after you're gone.

So when we look at those documents, hopefully you can see why. If you're not married, it's important that you go through these documents and see which one works for you.

First area we want to look at your healthcare documents. So if you're not married and something happens to you and you're in the hospital, who's going to make those decisions for you if you're not able to speak for yourself. If you're married, it's easy. The doctor will say Well, where's the spouse? Maybe we'll talk to them. However, if you don't have that the doctor or the hospital doesn't know who to talk to. A healthcare power of attorney with the HIPAA authorization will tell those doctors will tell that hospital will tell whoever you're working with. This is the person that you chose to make those medical decisions for you if you're unable to speak for yourself.

The second document with the last will and testament. If you don't have a spouse, who's going to get your stuff there's no natural way if you're a single person and let's say you don't have any siblings, what you're doing is you're leaving behind a puzzle for your local probate court to figure out your local probate court has to do a whole family tree and figure out who is the closest relation to you and figure out who will inherit your things. And when they're doing that. They have to find find somebody to manage the estate, the personal representative or the executor depending upon what state you're in. And that person has to then be involved with the court and wind up your assets and distribute them. Well, if you don't have any family around and the court doesn't know who it is, who are they going to find to be that person to manage it. And I briefly touched on it before but if you have children who are under the age of 18, you definitely want to have a will because you want to make sure you have the right person designated to be their guardian and another person and it could be the same person designated as the trustee to manage any money that the children inherit. If they're under 18. They can't inherit the money directly so the trustee can help manage that money for them.

And then back finally to the durable power of attorney. This goes back to your finances. So if something happens to you and you're unable to pay your bills, you're in the hospital you're not able to make financial decisions, that durable power of attorney will allow you to choose somebody to be able to manage your finances while you're unable to do so.

Now there's two ways you could try to approach this. The first is you could try to do all of this yourself. Which if you are not married and you have children are under 18 You are running around crazy. You know this I have three kids. It's a busy life. When are you going to find the time to do it yourself and make an entire estate plan, which is why you're going to do the second step which is work with an attorney, talk to your financial advisor, your accountant, create an estate plan, especially if you have children. You want to make sure that you have a plan laid out for them in case something happens to you. Now if you don't have anybody to talk to or you're ready to get started with an attorney, you can go to Andrew M ayers.com. On the main page, you'll see a red legal Strategy Session button. Click on that button. You'll be taken to my personal calendar, and we could set up a time to have a legal strategy session. It's about 15 to 20 minutes where we'll go through your situation, what your goals are and give you some next steps so that even if you're single and you don't think you need an estate plan, at the end of that session, you'll realize why you do it.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.