Unmarried or divorced people commonly ask, “Do I need an estate plan if I’m single?” Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not only for wealthy, old, and married individuals. A single individual may benefit from having an estate plan, too. In fact, estate planning for the single person is even more critical than for married individuals, especially if the single individual has no partner, children, parents, or siblings to take care of their property and make decisions on their behalf in the event of their incapacity.
A single person can communicate their wishes through estate planning to protect their assets and legacy. At Centonzio Law, PLLC, our estate planning attorneys understand the unique challenges facing single individuals. We help married and single individuals create an estate plan or update their current estate plan to protect their financial and health matters. Call (816) 710-9455 to discuss estate planning for singles if you reside in Missouri or (727) 900-7290 if you are in Florida.
What Is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is comprised of a series of documents that present a person’s wishes for healthcare decisions in the event of their incapacity, the management of financial affairs, and the distribution of assets in the event of their death. Thus, estate planning not only helps determine how a person wants to distribute their assets after their passing, but it also helps make proper arrangements for their financial and health matters should they become incapacitated. Depending on a single person’s goals and wishes, an estate plan may include:
- The Last Will and Testament (Will)
- A healthcare power of attorney
- A financial power of attorney
- A revocable or irrevocable trust
- Medical directives
Having a well-drafted estate plan also helps individuals minimize or even eliminate federal and state estate taxes.
What Happens If a Single Person Dies Without an Estate Plan?
Many Americans do not have a Will or other legal documents as part of their estate plan. According to AARP, only 4 in 10 adults in the United States have a Will or living trust. If a single person does not have a properly executed Will at the time of their death, their assets will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. Dying without a Will is also called “dying intestate.” In most states, if a person dies unmarried, their assets will go to their children, parents, siblings, and other surviving relatives. However, if a single person dies without an estate plan and has no relatives left, their estate will go to the state.
For example, under the Missouri Probate Court § 474.010, the intestate property is distributed to the decedent’s relatives in this particular order if there is no surviving spouse:
- Children or their descendants
- Parents, siblings, or their descendants
- Grandparents, uncles, aunts, or their descendants
- Great-grandparents or their descendants
Florida laws operate in a similar way to Missouri probate laws. Florida Statute §732.101-732 states that the order to receive intestate property in Florida is spouse, children, parents, and then siblings.
Every state has its own unique intestate laws, however, all states typically have property distributed to family members first.
What Happens If a Single Person Becomes Incapacitated Without an Estate Plan?
If a single person becomes incapacitated without an estate plan, a court will have the authority to appoint a person to make financial and healthcare decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person. The appointed individual – called an agent – has the legal authority to act on behalf of the incapacitated person. In particular, the guardian can make decisions regarding the incapacitated individual’s medical care and financial affairs. A single person may want to consider setting up a power of attorney to have the opportunity to choose the person who would act on their behalf in the event of their incapacity.
Estate Planning for the Single Person: Creating a Comprehensive Plan
At Centonzio Law, PLLC, our estate planning attorneys help married, divorced, and single individuals draft a comprehensive plan tailored to their needs and goals. Depending on the situation, a person might need to create and execute the following legal documents when preparing an estate plan:
1. A Will
The Last Will and Testament provides instructions for the individual’s assets and property after their passing. Effective estate planning for the single person often includes a Will to distribute the individual’s assets according to their wishes.
2. Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a crucial legal document for a single person. As a rule of thumb, when a married individual becomes incapacitated, their spouse will make decisions on their behalf. However, if a single person has no spouse or partner, they need to choose a trusted person who would make financial and medical decisions on their behalf when they lose their ability to make such decisions on their own. This can be done by setting up a financial or healthcare power of attorney.
3. A Trust
A single individual can set up a trust to have more control over what happens to their assets after their death. In particular, many single people choose to create a revocable trust as part of their estate plan. A trust allows the Trustor (the person who sets up the document) to appoint a Trustee who would manage the trust property and choose beneficiaries who would receive the property.
4. Donating to Charity
Many single individuals choose to donate their assets to charity, especially if they have no relatives who would inherit their property. Single people can donate to charity through an estate plan by naming the charity as the beneficiary of the individual’s Last Will and Testament or trust.
Estate Planning Attorneys at Centonzio Law, PLLC
At Centonzio Law, PLLC, we understand that drafting an estate plan can be an overwhelming and emotionally challenging process. However, having a comprehensive estate plan helps a person take control of their life and protect their legacy. Our estate planning attorneys have decades of experience helping individuals throughout Missouri and Florida create estate plans. We help people develop comprehensive strategies tailored to their specific situation and needs to make sure that their assets will be distributed according to their wishes. Consider contacting our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys at Centonzio Law, PLLC, to learn more about estate planning for the single person. Call our Missouri offices at (816) 710-9455 or Florida offices at (727) 900-7290.