Singles can benefit from estate planning every bit as much as married people … Maybe more.
In regards to protecting assets:
When a person dies without a will, the law dictates that the person’s assets transfer to their closest living relatives. If the person is married, the assets transfer to their spouse and/or children.
If the person is single, the assets transfer to their children, parents, siblings, etc., providing they have immediate living family. However, if the single person does not have any immediate living relatives, the assets transfer to the state. It then becomes the responsibility of the state to decide how and to whom the assets are to be distributed.
If the person wishes to have a say as to what happens to the assets, the person must make their wishes known through a will and/or trust.
In regards to health related decisions:
Suppose a person became incapacitated and they were unable to make financial or medical decisions for themselves. Or what if they are unable to pay their bills, or worse, make critical end of life decisions for themselves.
When a person without estate planning becomes incapacitated, a family member (often a wife or adult child) will usually see an attorney about gaining a conservatorship of the person.
In regards to our single person, it might benefit them more than a married person not to let this happen; which is to say, to put something in place so their wishes are known should the worst happen.
Luckily, estate planning documents like a Health Care Directive make it possible for a person to choose an agent (someone to make medical decisions on behalf of the person should the person become unable to make decisions for him or herself).
But again, married people often rely on their spouse or adult children to act as agent. Single people on the other hand do not share the convenience of deferring to a spouse. And supposing the single person does not have an adult child willing to serve as agent, who do they choose?
For a single person, having the ability to name a friend or alternate family member as agent could be tremendously important.
Without question, estate planning provides benefits and challenges for all people regardless of their relationship status. And yet, planning might very well provide greater value to those who do not have a spouse or partner to lean on.
For more information about wills, trusts or other estate planning documents, please contact a qualified estate planning attorney.