Today, there are more single people than there ever has been. The U.S. Census data shows that in 1970, around one-third of Americans who were 15 years old and older were single. That number today is closer to being 50 percent.
Whether they are widowed, divorced or never married, it is just as important for single individuals in Alexandria to pay attention to estate planning as people who are married, as was highlighted by a recent article appearing in the Wall Street Journal. Single people are faced with estate planning issues that are unique to them and that do require help from an experienced professional, along with plenty of time and advanced planning.
For singles, some of the most complex estate planning issues include the following:
Heirs: Whenever a married person dies without having a will, typically their assets will be passed on to their spouse. However, what happens with single individuals? Usually, assets are distributed along bloodlines, with children (if any) being first, and then parents, followed by siblings or any other relatives, as the default heirs. If the deceased single person does not have any living family members, then the person’s assets could wind up going to the state.
To make sure that their assets end up with their preferred loved ones, relatives, and charitable organizations, a single individual should have an irrevocable trust or will created that specifically states how they want their assets to get distributed after they have passed away.
Decision makers: Either a health event or some other kind of incident could leave a person incapacitated. For a single individual, it is critical to have a trusted friend or loved one designated to manage health care decisions and assets in the event of an emergency. If these directives are not in place, those decisions could end up falling either to state-appointed strangers or distant relatives.
Single individuals should make sure to sign an HIPAA authorization, advance health care directive and general power of attorney to authorize a chosen loved one to make medical and financial decisions for them.
Beneficiaries: Retirement plans and other certain accounts require a beneficiary to be designated by account holders when they enroll. Typically the beneficiary designation is upheld whenever an account holder dies, even if the person gives the account to a different person in their will.
Widowed or previously married singles need to make sure that they reevaluate all of the beneficiary designations they have done to make sure their accounts will not be given to their former spouses if that is not what they want to happen.
These are only a couple of ways that estate planning can get complicated for single people. It is a good idea for single individuals to get in touch with an estate planning professional in Alexandria right away, to make sure that they have all of their assets distributed and bases covered according to what their wishes are.
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Misha Gill is an Alexandria estate planning attorney for his firm, Speedwell Law, PLLC. If you would like assistance in setting up your own will, living trust, and other estate planning documents, Misha can be reached at (703) 553-2577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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