A watershed demographic event occurred in the past few years, although without much notice: For the first time in U.S. history, there are more people who are single than married — 124.6 million singles (among 248.2 million people 16 and older) compared with 123.6 million who are married as of last year. We'll leave it to the sociologists to figure out what that means demographically. Financially, singletons have their own challenges. Take estate planning.
Disability and long-term care insurance become more important to singles because—as you can guess—there’s no spouse or partner to help with expenses in the event of incapacity or an inability to work due to a disability, says a recent Main Street article titled “5 Items Singles Need to Handle Their Worst-Case Estate Planning.”
Married people have their spouse who can make medical decisions on their behalf. However, a single person has to plan for medical contingencies. He or she should draft a durable power of attorney for medical and financial needs in case of incapacity. Single people should think about who will inherit their assets when they die. If they don’t make plans, then the state will make these decisions.
The article relates the story of an attorney with a client who became disabled due to a brain injury. Even though the client had written a will in 1997, he never signed a power of attorney. This individual was not only single with no kids—he was an only child, so there was no one to help make medical or financial decisions. This person's first cousin stepped up, but had to go to court to get granted conservatorship to make decisions on his behalf, which took months.
The article lists five critical documents single people must have for estate planning purposes:
- Power of attorney. This is important for everyone, but especially for a single person. POA lets someone to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
- Health care power of attorney. This lets someone you trust make health care decisions if you are unable.
- Revocable trust. This is a private document to pass assets on to friends and loved ones.
- Living will. This document has your health care wishes detailed.
- Will. A will is a public record to pass along and carry out your intent.
Proper estate planning is not a do-it-yourself project. Contact an experienced estate planning attorney to help you through the process.
Reference: Main Street (April 22, 2015) “5 Items Singles Need to Handle Their Worst-Case Estate Planning”