Most American adults don’t have wills. Reasons vary, including procrastination, believing they’re too young to need a will, not thinking they have enough property to bother with estate planning and discomfort thinking about end of life issues. Those who don’t have a spouse or children to provide for may be even less inclined to attend to estate planning. However, having a will and other arrangements is just as important for a single person. In fact, lack of planning may have even more complicated consequences for a single person.
3 Reasons You Need a Will if You’re Single and Don’t Have Children
- Intestate Succession May Have Strange Results
If you’re married or have children, intestate succession may still not play out exactly the way you would have chosen. But, if you don’t have a spouse or children and your parents have predeceased you, property may pass to relatives you would never have anticipated—even relatives you haven’t seen in decades or never knew at all. If you have no relatives listed in the relevant intestate succession statute, your property will pass to the state. If you’d prefer that your property pass to a close friend, significant other, business partner, or even one particular second cousin, you have to take action during your lifetime to ensure that outcome.
- Someone Must Administer Your Estate
Regardless of whether you have a will or your property passes through intestate succession, someone must take responsibility for inventorying your property, ensuring that debts are paid, paying taxes, making distributions to your heirs and a variety of other duties. When you create a will, you designate a person you know and trust to manage your estate. When you don’t make that choice, the court will appoint someone to administer your estate. If you don’t have a close relative stepping forward to fill that role, that person could be a stranger or someone you would never have chosen to appoint.
- Lack of Preparation Puts a Burden on Your Survivors
The natural choice to manage your estate if you haven’t left instructions will be one of your closest surviving relatives. That means your parents or even grandparents may find themselves taking on the significant demands of administering your estate. To make matters worse, the fact that you haven’t put a plan in place will require the appointee to do a lot more leg work than would have been necessary if you’d written a will and organized your affairs. For example, they’ll have to search out heirs, research outstanding debts and locate property. If heirs aren’t immediately apparent and an outsider is appointed, a significant percentage of estate assets may be consumed in this process.
In short, if you’ve assumed that you don’t need a will because you don’t have dependents, think again.
Additional Estate Planning for Single Adults
A will is a good start toward protecting your property and easing the burden on the people close to you, but there are other important measures to consider. One of the most significant for an unmarried person is a healthcare directive or medical power of attorney. When you haven’t adequately planned for a medical crisis or end-of-life care, those decisions are typically made by your closest relative, such as a spouse or adult child. If you have no readily available next of kin or you aren’t close with your legal next of kin, you will want to make your wishes known regarding issues like extraordinary life-sustaining measures. You will also likely want to appoint someone you trust to ensure that your wishes are carried out, and to make any decisions not addressed in your advance directive.
Fortunately, the first step toward ensuring that your wishes are honored in a medical emergency, choosing the person who will manage your medical care, planning for distribution of your property after your death, appointing someone to manage your estate and creating an orderly structure for identification of your assets, payment of your debts and other estate issues is the same. Schedule a consultation with an estate lawyer to learn more about how you can best protect yourself and the people you care about.