Recent statistics show that 53 percent of women and 26 percent of men over the age of 65 are widowed, have never been married or are divorced, which translates to approximately 18 million seniors who are single. In light of this, many discussions regarding estate planning do these millions of Americans a disservice, since they focus on individuals who are married with or without children. However, it is just as important for single Washington, DC, residents to have at least a basic estate plan.
When an individual dies without a will, his or her assets are distributed in accordance with the laws of intestacy. Therefore, a single individual's property could end up being distributed in a way that is contrary to his or her wishes. In fact, if there are no familial heirs found, Washington, DC, could end up being the beneficiary of that person's estate.
At a minimum, a single person needs a will. A revocable living trust established during life could also help avoid probate upon death and safeguard one's assets if he or she becomes unable to do so. Durable powers of attorney for health care and financial affairs are also important for a single person in order to avoid someone he or she would not approve of being entrusted with these decisions during incapacitation.
Estate planning allows an individual to maintain control over what happens to one's estate after death. If that control is not exercised and trusted people are not appointed to handle one's financial affairs and medical care, it could fall to someone who may not have the individual's best interests in mind. Few things can replace the peace of mind that careful planning provides.
Source: nasdaq.com, "Estate-Planning Essentials for Single People", Carolyn T. Geer, Dec. 6, 2014