If you are single, you are not the only one. More adults than ever before are deciding to wait to get married and start a family. Estate planning is just as important for single adults as it is for married couples and seniors. In fact, for many single individuals who do not have close relatives, estate planning can be even more important than it is for married couples because single individuals may not have an obvious heir or person who can make decisions for them if they are incapacitated due to an unexpected accident or illness.
Estate planning allows you to plan for the future and control what will happen if you become incapacitated. If you do not have important estate planning documents such as a living will or power of attorney in place, you may be subjected to painful medical treatments that are not expected to help you recover from an incapacitating or terminal condition. Doctors are not allowed to cease administering treatment without a court order unless there is a document signed by you expressing your wishes. Failing to have a living will can put family members in a difficult position of trying to guess about your wishes regarding treatment.
Estate planning allows you to appoint someone you trust to make financial and medical decisions for you. You can grant a person the authority to sign documents on your behalf. For business owners, this can be important if you become incapacitated or if you face circumstances that will limit your access to your accounts (such as a deployment).
Another thing that single adults should keep in mind is that if they pass away without a will, their estate will be distributed according to state statutes that list next closest relatives in order of who will receive an inheritance. Usually, a spouse or children are listed first, and for individuals who do not have a spouse or children, any assets in an estate will go to their parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, or nephews. Even if you do not have a close relative such as a spouse or a child that you would like to leave your estate to, you most likely have a partner or a friend or even a charity that you would like to receive an inheritance after you pass away.
Many people have a partner but are not married. Many unmarried couples have lived together for many years and have made financial decisions together. If you pass away without a will, your partner could be left in a difficult financial situation. Legally, this situation will be considered the same as it is for single individuals unless you have made arrangements with your financial institution or through a will to make sure that your assets are transferred to your partner rather than to your next closest relative.
Parents of young adults are often surprised when they learn that the emergency room doctor cannot legally discuss the child's condition with the parents, much less allow the parents to make any critical medical decisions. The need for estate planning begins as soon as an individual reaches the age of majority. At that time he or she should at have in place, at a minimum, a basic will and financial and medical powers of attorney and HIPAA authorizations.
Estate planning is a way to make sure that your future and the future of those that you care about is in your control. Having an estate plan in place is a way to ensure that what happens is tailored to your specific goals and needs and not decided according to state law or by a court.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney
If you have questions or need assistance with estate planning in Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, or Tennessee, contact Nina Whitehurst at Cumberland Legacy Law, located in Crossville, Tennessee. You can use our online form to schedule a consultation or call us at (931) 250-8585.