The simple fact is that people who need an estate plan the most - single people - are often the ones who assume that they don't.
It's assumed that when married people die, they want their belongings or property to go to the surviving spouse and/or children. The laws of most states assume this as well, so even if a married person dies intestate (without a will), the state will usually distribute the possessions accordingly. If a single person - widowed, divorced, or never married - dies intestate, it's not so easy. The state may distribute the belongings to the closest living relative or, in the absence of such a person, they may go to the state itself. In other words, the possessions of the deceased may not be distributed according to his or her wishes at all.
So here is what every single person should have as part of their estate plans:
A will should include all assets such as property, homes, automobiles, jewelry, investments, money, heirlooms, etc. It allows you to state clearly and legally exactly how you want your these and other assets distributed. If you would like your beneficiary to be a partner, friend, institution, trust, business partner, and/or favorite charity, you can feel secure knowing that your property will go to persons that you wish. In the absence of a will, your closest living relative will, by default, probably receive your property.
Durable power of attorney (DPA)
In the event that you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to manage your own day-to-day financial affairs, a DPA allows you to appoint a person of your choice to do this. A married person will usually select a spouse or child, but a single person's wishes in this regard may not be so clearly apparent. So it is important to make your choice clearly known. A close, trusted family member or friend with good financial acumen is preferable.
Health care directive
This document allows you to appoint an agent to make medical decisions for you in the event that you cannot communicate your wishes. This agent is authorized to have access to your private medical information and speak to medical personnel about medical treatment and procedures that involve you. This should be a trusted friend or family member who knows and will respect your wishes regarding medical matters, life-support and end-of-life decisions.
We can help
While the Internet is full of information about estate planning, it is sometimes incomplete or inaccurate. Laws vary from state to state. It's best to consult a trusted, qualified attorney about these matters. In fact, it's really too important not to. Don't leave things up to chance, and make sure that your estate plan is complete, legal and binding. Contact the Law Offices of Dwight W. Clark, L.L.C. for assistance.