People are living longer and longer these days and it’s more important than ever to have an estate plan in order, especially when you’re single.
“What’s that?” you say, “I thought estate planning is only important if you’re married or have children.“
Well you can take that notion out with the bathwater. The fact is that even if you are single and have no children that you care for, it’s still important to have an estate plan in order. Heck, even if you’ve got no surviving relatives, do you think that once you die a spit-shake you make with your arch enemy neighbor for proprietary rights over each other’s lawn care equipment will hold up in a court of law? It won’t. The fact is if you’re single and retired, the rules of the road for estate planning are a little different for a young single person, but not that much. You still need to designate your heirs, you still need to allocate your assets, you still need to draw up a will, and if the human element is nonexistent, you’d still be wise to designate a charity or some other program which has captured your imagination for all the assets from your estate sale and life insurance payouts. Or else your money will end up coming back into the state coffers. Here are six steps to getting your house in order, getting your estate in order, and restoring order to the disorderly experience of life.
Single Estate Planning: What’s Your House: Before you do anything you need to figure exactly what you’ve got. You’re single, you may or may not own your domicile, you may or may not have life insurance, you may or may not have equities. You need to know all this before you figure who you’re going to leave all this to. So gather together your statements, figure out what you have, and don’t forget this should be something of an ongoing process. That is, if you’re a 64 year old retired individual and you’ve got a 98 year old mother with a $500,000 life insurance payout and you’re her only surviving heir, that’s going to change your picture significantly. You need to plan for your estate and for any incoming estates which could be headed your way.
Single Estate Planning: Figure Your Debts: This part stinks but if you’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars in mortgages, car loans, boat loans, personal loans, and credit cards, this does need to be factored in when you’re planning your estate. This is one reason that speaking with an estate planner can help you find any loopholes in the debt/asset equation so that you can protect the things you definitely want somewhere else besides the seedy claws of the bank.
Single Estate Planning: Who Gets What: This can be the tough part; once you’ve decided that you are going to pass on your estate, you need to decide who gets what. Who is most likely to benefit from your hard earned assets? Who will be able to enjoy them the longest? These are things you should figure before you go in to speak with an estate planner or they may be things you need help in deciding. Either way, it’s a good idea to meditate on this one, taking all potentials into consideration.
Single Estate Planning: Talk It Out: If you are considering gifting your estate to a friend or charity or university, you should speak with them about it. Charities, hospitals, universities, and other professional instillations may have protocol which will make the process easier for you and for them. If you’re giving a large amount of money to a friend, you may want to make them aware of this so they’re not taken aback and so they can plan for it.
Single Estate Planning: Draw It Up: According to a recent article from US News & World Report (1), many people are taking matters into their own hands. The piece found, unsurprisingly, that folks with bigger estates and more assets had a much murkier time, “…but for people with relatively straightforward needs-a will for a single person without much money, for example-there’s more room for disagreement. ‘People are starting to realize that they can be empowered to handle common legal matters on their own,’ says Chas Rampenthal, general counsel for LegalZoom, a Los Angeles-based company that sells Web-based DIY legal documents. And despite some of the risks that other lawyers point out, Rampenthal insists that having a DIY document is better than having no document at all.” If you’re still of sound mind and body and have uncomplicated situations, then perhaps a website like LegalZoom is a good resource.
Single Estate Planning: Live Your Life: The most important part of estate planning is that you can’t dwell too much on the fact that you’re going to die. If you change your mind about who’s deserving of your assets or if their situation changes (i.e. they die) then that’s one thing, but always changing your tune can be an exhausting, time consuming exercise. A piece from bankrate.com (2) says it best; of estates and of estate planning for singles: “Kyle Krull, a Kansas City attorney and estate planner, (thinks) singles need it more. ‘(Estate planning is) even more important than it is for marrieds, and here’s why: In a marriage, it is pretty much assumed that your spouse, even in the absence of any planning, is going to be the person that the court is going to appoint as the guardian over your personal and health care decisions and conservator over your financial matters.'” You don’t want to dwell and you don’t want to make a big deal out of these matters but you certainly don’t want your assets that you intended for someone to be stuck in probate for years on end. Time is short, estate planning is essential, and your family is the people and love which surrounds you.