More and more Americans are living on their own. The 2018 U.S. census revealed that there 110.6 million unmarried people over the age of 18. Of them, 63% have never been married; 23% are divorced; 13% are widowed. Most live alone, and 53% are women.
People who are single and have no children will sometimes say about estate planning, “It’s just me, who cares? Why should I bother figuring out who gets what in the end?” Actually, there are compelling reasons to bother. And not all the reasons have to do with what happens after you are gone. Some of them have to do with what happens during your life, when you certainly will care.
Do You Have Relatives You Care About?
Without an estate plan identifying your beneficiaries, the state will decide who gets your assets, giving priority to your relatives in order of their relatedness to you. Depending on your family situation, your money could end up going to relatives you don’t care about, or even relatives you actively dislike! If you do have family members who you care about – siblings, or nieces and nephews, say – an estate plan is essential to ensure that your assets end up in their hands.
Do You Have Causes You Care About?
Let’s assume for the moment that you have no blood relatives or close friends to whom you want to leave an inheritance. Or maybe your relatives really don’t need the money. Do you have causes that matter to you? Some of our clients leave assets to religious organizations, philanthropic organizations, their alma maters. The possibilities are endless. Knowing your assets will end up helping a cause near to your heart can be very comforting.
Do You Want To Be Sure The Courts Don’t Take Over If You Are Incapacitated?
If you don’t name anyone to manage your financial and health decisions if you become incapacitated, the courts may get involved and name a guardian for you. Your guardian could end up being a stranger who knows nothing of your life, desires, values. Or worse yet, it could end up being one of those relatives you can’t stand!
For your peace of mind, you should establish a health care surrogate, living will and a durable power of attorney naming someone YOU choose to perform these jobs. If you do not have a relative or friend who meets the bill, you still have options. For example, one of our clients recently asked a longtime nurse at his doctor’s office to serve as his health surrogate. Your attorney or accountant may be willing to take on handling your financial decisions.
Whatever you do – don’t do nothing! See an estate planning attorney to discuss an estate plan that works for you.