Lawyer and A Person Analyzing Financial Statement for Estate Planning

Estate Planning When You’re Single 

The Elder & Disability Law Firm, APC Dec. 27, 2022

You just finished college and are embarking on your lifelong career when someone mentions you should seriously consider the role of estate planning for your future. You scratch your head and mumble to yourself: “Why? I’m not even married yet and have no children to take care of.” 

While it is true that at a young age with decades of life presumably ahead of you, thinking of what to do with assets you’ve yet to accumulate and a family you have yet to start might seem a bit of a stretch. However, estate planning is not just for the sake of your family members but also for you. There are safeguards you need to put in place for any eventuality awaiting you.  

The COVID-19 pandemic should have brought home the reality that anything can happen at any time, so we all need to be prepared. As part of estate planning, for instance, you can make known your medical choices should something bad befall you health-wise and you can’t voice your own treatment decisions. 

Another point to consider is that, without a will or a trust, if you do pass on at whatever age, the state will step in and designate who your heirs are, using a formula known as the laws of intestacy. An estranged parent or another family member could end up with everything you’ve accumulated, or a good portion of it. 

Granted, thinking of one’s own demise is not something most people care to do, but you’re never too young – or too single – to get the legal instruments in place that protect you and also ensure that you are the final decision-maker when it comes to your legacy, which includes naming your beneficiaries. Regardless of your age, if you’re single, estate planning is still an essential aspect of preparing for the future. 

If you’re in or around Redlands, California, contact The Elder & Disability Law Firm, APC. Their legal team helps individuals of all ages put in place the legal documents that can bring them peace of mind as they journey through life. We also proudly serve clients in the communities of Rancho Cucamonga, Palm Springs, and Riverside. 

What Happens if You Die Without a Will? 

As mentioned above, if you die in California without a will, the state’s law of intestate succession will determine who receives which of your assets based on a family hierarchical formula.  

If you die with a spouse but no children, the spouse inherits everything. If you die without a spouse but with children, the children get everything. If there are no spouse or children, then your parents get everything. If there are no spouse, children, or parents, siblings are the recipients. After that, it gets even trickier, and half-relatives could end up with everything. 

Dying without a will is called dying intestate, but even if you have a will in place, your estate will have to go through the probate process, which is a court-run system of squaring your debts and distributing your assets. The process can last months or more than a year in some cases if the estate is large enough or several challenges are filed. 

The legal means to avoid probate is setting up a living trust. You still will probably need to have a will as well, but the living trust will protect your assets from court supervision. Your named successor trustee will pay creditors and distribute assets according to your instructions in the trust document. 

Other Considerations if You’re Single 

An advance healthcare directive is a legal instrument that allows you to name a healthcare agent for you should you become incapacitated. That person will then rely upon the instructions you leave in what is called a living will to make medical decisions for you when you can’t. This is often associated with “do not resuscitate” orders, but your living will can also specify “do resuscitate” and make other decisions. 

Another legal instrument to consider is a power of attorney (POA). A power of attorney will enable someone else to manage your financial affairs when you cannot.  

Perhaps you’re called up for a deployment overseas as a reservist, or you’re going to be gone out of the country for an extended period, or again, you’re incapacitated. In these situations, the person to whom you’ve given a power of attorney can manage your affairs for you until you are able to do so again yourself.  

If you do have minor children, you can use a will to name a guardian to care for them should you pass on. If you don’t designate someone, again, the courts may have to step in and do so for you. 

Estate Planning Options for Singles 

A last will and testament is the starting point for all estate planning, but to avoid probate and to have more control over the process of rewarding beneficiaries, a living trust is an important tool.  

A revocable living trust is a living document that can be altered or dropped at any time, so it is not something that is cast in legal stone. If your life situation changes, you can – and should – update your trust and your will as well, if you have one. 

A will is an important companion to a living trust for a couple of reasons. First, as mentioned, if you have minor children, you can name a guardian in your will, but you cannot do so in a trust. Second, a will can also be used to “pour over” assets you forgot to place in your trust into your trust once you’re gone. Probate will still have to be held to do the transfer, but after that, your beneficiaries will receive what you designated for them. 

Trusted and Experienced Legal Guidance 

If you’re single at any age, estate planning is still an essential aspect of preparing for the future by taking into account the many changes and events in life that can otherwise throw you for a loop, or leave you virtually at the mercy of the court system.  

Take charge of your life through solid, comprehensive estate planning. If your life changes with the addition of a spouse or children, your estate planning documents can then be updated to account for your new reality.  

You’re never too young to begin estate planning, but you can be too late. Get started today. Contact The Elder & Disability Law Firm, APC if you’re in or around the Redlands, Palm Springs, Riverside, or Rancho Cucamonga areas. Their experienced lawyer will take a comprehensive look at your needs going forward and advise you of your best options for lasting peace of mind.