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Single People Have Special Estate Planning Needs

According to U.S. census data, nearly half of American adults are single, but you would never know it from reading estate planning information on the internet. Websites giving estate planning advice seem to assume that virtually everyone is married with children. But single people can and should prepare financially for their retirement, both to foster their health and well-being later in life and to ensure that their wealth is distributed upon death as they wish it to be.

If you are single and you don’t make plans for your estate, your assets will be distributed according to Arizona’s intestacy law. If you have children, the law typically splits your assets among them, which might be exactly what you want. If you don’t have children, your property could go to parents, siblings, other relatives or even to the state of Arizona if no close relatives are located. If you want some or all of your property to go elsewhere, then making a will or a trust becomes crucial.

By creating a will, you can specify the people or organizations who should receive assets. You can name as many beneficiaries as you wish, including:

  • Friends
  • Specific relatives
  • People who helped you through a tough time in life
  • Pets (usually a pet trust is better than a will for providing for pets)
  • Charities, schools or other causes and organizations you’re passionate about

You can make alternative provisions for who gets property if a particular beneficiary is not available or eligible.

Another way to distribute property is a living trust, which can specify beneficiaries to receive property upon your death. During your lifetime, you can serve as trustee and can alter the trust in any way you wish.

Single people may also want to give substantial gifts before death. Estate planning is a great way to make sure you avoid gift tax issues later on.

Property is far from the only consideration for singles, though. You should also prepare for possible disabilities that require management of your health care and finances. These documents can be created for those purposes:

  • Durable financial power of attorney — This document allows you to select a person who will manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated, disabled or other cannot handle your own assets and liabilities.
  • Advance directives — Without a spouse or children, it’s critical for a single person to specify how they want to be treated should a medical emergency arise. This is accomplished through advance directives. The most common type is a healthcare power of attorney, which lets you choose a specific person to make decisions in your behalf.

As an experienced Arizona estate planning lawyer, I frequently counsel single clients on the steps they should take to preserve their assets for the future. My firm, Jeffrey P. Hall, PLLC, has offices in Phoenix, Chandler and Peoria. Call 480-409-5174 or contact me online to arrange a free consultation where we can discuss how to achieve your objectives.