Estate Planning For Single People

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Single people without children often avoid estate planning and the challenges associated with it, because of feeling overwhelmed or unsure.  This is unfortunate because its even more critical for single people to plan ahead and name their fiduciaries and beneficiaries as there is no clear cut answer for their loved ones should something happen.

The following questions should be addressed:

To whom should I leave my assets?

Do I need to consider creating a trust to manage my assets now or for my chosen beneficiaries in the future?

Who should be my personal representatives and/or trustees?

Who should be my agents for my medical and financial powers of attorney?

If you are a single person without young children, you can leave your assets to whomever you choose, including but not limited to your partners, relatives, friends or charitable organizations. In Colorado, you can also create Pet Trusts and name trustees to care for your animals. If you do not have an estate plan in place, the state will dictate who will inherit your assets.  A recent case in point, the author of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, Stieg Larrsen did not have an estate plan and as a result, his estranged father and brother, whom he had not spoken to for over 20 years before his death inherited his entire estate and all royalties thereof while his long-time love and assistant, whom he had lived with for 20 years was cut off, receiving nothing.

Selection of the right personal representatives and trustees is also essential to successful estate and trust administration. Who do you trust to administer your estate, especially if your relatives live far away or are unfamiliar with your affairs?  In addition, health care and financial powers of attorney are very important documents to have in place since you may need these agents to make crucial medical decisions on your behalf as well as control your financial matters if you are ever unable to do so on your own because of disability.

Estate planning for a single person often demands more attention to detail than estate planning for married persons or single persons with children or grandchildren - because there is no obvious answer.  A Will is usually sufficient for unmarried persons with smaller estates, but a Living Trust may be a better option for persons with larger estates (click here to read about Living Trusts). Your estate planning documents should be reviewed regularly, particularly when there have been changes in the law or in your personal situation. As a single person, it is very important that you understand how your assets are currently held and how they will pass after your death.