If you are single and (at least for now) unattached, perhaps with no children, you might have crossed estate planning off your to-do list. As Christine Fletcher writes in Forbes, you may have been busy building your career, socking away money for retirement, and enjoying hobbies. But as you inch closer to retirement, Fletcher cautions, it’s time to seriously consider planning your affairs.
We agree. At Geyer Law, we see estate planning – for everyone – as the means to prepare for all of life’s twists and turns. Of course, life is fluid, particularly for an unattached single, so we develop estate plans tailored to your current situation and needs, then help you re-evaluate as your situation changes.
The documents that formalize your decision fall into three basic categories:
While-you-are-alive documents – these empower individuals to make decisions for you if any (either temporary or permanent) factors prevent you from making decisions for yourself:
- Power of attorney – for financial decisions.
- Health care proxy (aka healthcare power of attorney – for medical decisions.
Remember, these documents relate to decisions that must be made while you are still alive. When you die, the power of attorney and health care proxy are no longer valid, so you also need to create a will and/or trust.
When-you-have-died document –
Will – This document sets forth how you want your assets distributed after your death. In the document, you name a personal representative; that person who will attend to your affairs after you’ve died, making distributions to people and/or charities, and paying any income tax and estate tax that might be owed.
The now-and-later document –
Revocable living trust – This document directs how assets are handled both during life and after death. Everything from real estate, to valuable possession, to bank accounts and investments can be used to “fund’ your trust. In case you become incapacitated, for example, you healthcare proxy will not only be empowered to make medical decisions for you, the successor trustee will be able to use the funds for your care. Yet, because the trust is “revocable”, you keep control over your assets. An added benefit of a revocable living trust is that your heirs avoid the costs and delays of probate.
As an unattached single, you realize you’re responsible for yourself. “Of course, people arrive at their singleness in different ways, “ as a Fidelity Viewpoints author remarks, “whether it’s through widowhood, divorce, or never having been married. Some are enveloped in a tight-knit community of friends and family, while others are truly on their own. As a result, there’s no one estate planning solution for every single person.”
As a highly competent single and unattached individual, you know that estate planning needs to go right back on that to-do list!
– by Rebecca W. Geyer