Singles Incentives to Plan
Advice from this estate planning attorney – single people have an even greater need to create estate planning documents to protect their interests on death or incapacity than married couples. There are legal protections in place for married couples that fail to plan. For instance, if you’re married and die without a will, state intestacy law will typically direct all or part of the assets to your surviving spouse. This is the desire of most married couples anyway. If your single and don’t have a will, your property will still be distributed by intestate succession, but your estate may be divided in ways you don’t want.
The same is true if you become physically or mentally incapacitated during you lifetime. Even if you failed to make formal arrangements by preparing a health care directive and durable power of attorney for finances with assistance of an estate planning attorney, the law generally allows a spouse to step-in and manage your financial affairs as well as make health care decisions. From experience as an estate planning attorney, single persons that become incapacitated are far more likely to wind-up with a court-appointed guardian than a trusted agent to handle their affairs should they become incapacitated. How does an estate planning attorney help to protect single clients?
Documents Needed for Single Persons
Property that passes by will (or intestacy law) is probate property and its disposition requires the oversight of a court and assistance of an estate planning attorney. What kind of assets are considered probate property?
- Life insurance, IRA’s, 401k’s, and the like, avoid probate by passing directly to the named beneficiaries.
- Real estate passes in one of two ways: (1) Joint Tenancy – goes directly to surviving spouse and bypasses probate; (2) Share passes according to will and is included in probate estate.
- The best way to ensure your desired heirs get your asset(s) is by having an estate planning attorney create a will and revocable living trust that avoid the costs and stress of probate, while allowing your loved ones to grieve your loss and honor your legacy.
Singles and married couples need to create wills and living trusts to avoid probate and ensure their assets are going to their desired beneficiaries.
“Living Trust” Creation with Assistance of Estate Planning Attorney
A living trust is a powerful tool, especially for singles. By creating a living trust with help of an estate planning attorney, you’re able to transfer title of your property to the trust and name yourself as trustee. You can name co-trustees to act as trustee with you, or you can name successor trustees to step into your shoes if you become incapacitated. The trust is revocable, meaning that you can change it at any time, especially if a triggering event occurs. By creating a living trust, you remain in control of your property during life, avoid probate on death, and ensure your property goes to your desired beneficiaries. Win! Win!
Health Care Directive & Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
An advance health care directive (HCD) allows you to name an agent to carry out your healthcare wishes in the event of your incapacitation and on death (cremation vs. burial, for instance). Detailing your end-of-life healthcare wishes in a healthcare directive provides peace of mind now and closure for your family in the future. In addition to detailing your wishes regarding organ donor-ship and life support, your agent can access your medical records if a medical specialist is needed. This helps avoid a costly and timely court procedure.
“Old” Health Care Directives (HCD) executed in the past cause the following problems.
- HCD executed before 1992 expire in seven (7) years.
- HCD executed before 2000 that have statements concerning life-support are not mandatory. This means that agents have the discretion regarding life support regardless of the provisions contained in the HCD.
- HCD executed before 2004 may not be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or California CMIA law that allows your agent to receive medical information from your provider.
A financial durable power of attorney allows you to name an agent to handle your financial affairs during life if you’re unable to do so as a result of disability or incapacity. A general power of attorney isn’t enough because it ends if you become incapacitated. Creating a durable power of attorney, in contrast, ensures your named agent can make financial decisions for you in the event of your incapacitation. Remember. You need to keep up to date with this and your other estate planning documents. Your agent may have problems enforcing the power if its not up to date. Your financial power terminates on death, at which point another key document of your estate planning checklist, the living trust, comes into play.