Estate Planning Considerations for Single People

Individuals who are single may mistakenly believe that they do not need an estate plan. It is crucial that single individuals take into consideration a number of key factors in order to develop a comprehensive estate plan.

Laws of Intestacy

If a person dies without a will, the laws of intestacy apply. These laws dictate who will receive the decedent’s property upon his or her passing. Single people may not feel as concerned about designating a beneficiary as a person who is looking out for his or her spouse. However, without a will, there can be unintended consequences, such as an estranged parent or other family member being entitled to part or all of a decedent’s estate. Rather than having these unintended consequences, a single person may wish to designate a beneficiary in a will who he or she actually wants to receive the property, such as his or her child, a beloved family member, a friend or a charity.


A single person with children will want to take steps to protect his or her children. His or her will may state who he or she wishes to serve as a guardian over the children. Additionally, a single person may want to consider who he or she would want to serve as a guardian over him or her in the event of incapacitation. This role may be taken by default to a spouse. Therefore, single people must put more thought into who could fulfill this role for them. Additionally, they may wish to consider who would be appropriate to safeguard their assets.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

Often, a person’s spouse is given the authority to make medical decisions on his or her behalf. If a spouse is not available, this power is often given to a person’s next of kin. To avoid this default provision, an individual may wish to designate someone of his or her own choosing. This may be a family member, a friend or another trusted individual who will make healthcare decisions that coordinate with the individual’s medical preferences and values.

Advance Directive

An advance directive or living will is a document in which a person pre-specifies what types of medical treatments he or she wants. These documents often specify end-of-life treatment, such as whether or not the individual wants to receive CPR, treatment for new conditions, blood transfusions, breathing machines, tube feeding or IV fluids. This document establishes what a person wants to have happen in dire medical situations in the event that he or she is unable to convey this information.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a legal document in which the principal gives the named agent the legal authority to act on his or her behalf. Depending on the language in the power of attorney, the agent may have the right to buy or sell real estate, invest the principal’s income, purchase other property, pay bills, handle insurance policies and handle income for the principal. The durable aspect of this form keeps the power of attorney valid if the principal loses capacity.

Beneficiary Designations

A single person may have acquired an asset in which he or she named a beneficiary. For example, he or she may have listed a beneficiary on a retirement account. He or she may have named an ex-spouse. If a person does not change the beneficiary designation, his or her wishes may not be carried out. It is important for single people to review any beneficiary designations that they have established and update them as needed.

Living Trust

Single individuals may have very concrete opinions about how they want their property treated after their death. They may want to attach conditions to providing certain property to the named beneficiary, such as wanting to funnel money to the named beneficiary throughout his or her life, such as by providing money to pay for his or her education, health and welfare. Additionally, a trust can provide funds to a charity. It can also provide for distributions at certain intervals, such as when the beneficiary reaches a certain age or after he or she graduates.

Legal Assistance

Single individuals who would like more information about steps they should take to protect themselves and their interests may decide to contact an estate planning lawyer. He or she can explain various estate planning tools and how they may benefit their particular situation. He or she can work on a plan that provides customized solutions based on the individual’s needs.

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Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case.

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