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Estate Planning for Singles

When compared to being married, the single life is considered by many to be carefree and easy.  However, when it comes to estate planning, a single person’s decisions about the future can become complicated.  If you are divorced, have outlived your spouse, or have never been married, creating an estate plan is essential in order to help ensure that your wishes are carried out after you pass on.

If a single person dies “intestate”, (without a will), the distribution of his/her assets is determined by the state.  In most cases, when someone who doesn’t have a spouse or children dies, the intestate estate will be passed on to the individual’s parents or if parents are no longer alive, to siblings or more distant relative.  Another thing to keep in mind, is that a surviving spouse can be the recipient of his/her deceased spouse’s property without having to pay inheritance or federal estate tax.  Singles don’t have this option and without proper estate planning his or her estate can be subject to inheritance tax rates that might otherwise been avoided or reduced. 

A single person who becomes incapacitated can, also, run into significant problems if proper estate planning has not been done.  Decisions about his or her estate and medical care will fall to whomever the court designates as the guardian; whether it be a family relative or a complete stranger.  Without proper estate planning documents, medical decisions, financial decisions and the distribution of assets and property cannot be carried out by a trusted friend or relative.

In order to avoid the above situation, the things that need to be done are the creation of a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Will, and/or, when appropriate, a Revocable Living Trust.  When used together, these documents will provide specific information about how your medical wishes should be enforced, your assets cared for during any period of incapacity and how your property should be distributed upon your death.  When appropriate, probate can be avoided by creating a Revocable Living Trust and designating a trustee to ensure that your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries.  It is best to name someone who is familiar with your goals to act as your trustee so he/she can help ensure that your wishes are properly carried out. 

It is a good idea to have your estate planning attorney help you with updating your beneficiary designations on such assets as life insurance and retirement plans.  Regardless of what is written in your Will; the individuals designated as beneficiaries of these types of assets will receive the proceeds.  If you don’t keep beneficiary designations current, a former friend or ex-spouse could inherit your property even though he/she is no longer involved in your life. 

Estate planning is essential for both traditional and non-traditional families, so if you are single, you still need to create an estate plan.  It is critical that decisions about your property and health fall into the hands of the people who know you best.

To discuss your specific needs and to find out how an estate planning lawyer in Pittsburgh can help you, please call us at Fingeret Law (412.281.8222) or contact us online.

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