What are the unique needs of single people when it comes to estate planning?
There are currently more single Americans than ever before. United States census data reveals that over 110 million Americans who are over the age of 18 are unmarried. This represents nearly half of our country’s population, up significantly from decades ago. In fact, in 1960, 72 percent of the country reported being married in census polls. America’s growing single population may be tempted to put off estate planning, but doing so could have serious consequences. Singles have unique needs when it comes to estate planning. Our Orange County, California estate planning lawyers discuss some vital estate planning considerations for singles below.
Avoiding Assets Going to Distant Relatives or the State
If a married person passes away without a will, his or her assets will typically transfer to the spouse through the state laws of intestacy. When a single person dies without a will, there is less certainty as to who might receive the assets. Per California state law, the court will need to divide the assets among the single individual’s closest living relatives, with priority going first to the parents and siblings, then, if no parents or siblings are living, more distant relatives will be distributed the assets. If none exist, then the state could receive your assets.
It is critical for the single individual to recognize that should they pass away without a will, they will have no control over who receives their assets. If you are in a relationship, even if you have been with your boyfriend or girlfriend for years, he or she will have no legal claim to your assets. The uncertainty over your assets can be avoided by simply creating a will or trust that will specify who you want to receive your hard-earned assets.
Be Sure Someone Can Make Decisions on Your Behalf
If you become physically or mentally incapacitated, you will want someone whom you trust to be able to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf. For a married couple, the law will typically allow the spouse to make these important decisions. However, a single individual will not have a default person. The court may be forced to appoint a power of attorney from your closest relatives. You can avoid this uncertainty and chaos by creating a living will and power of attorney with the help of your estate planning attorney.