One of the most pervasive and dangerous myths about estate planning is the belief that it does not become necessary until you marry and/or become a parent. This simply is not true.
Estate Planning Is About More Than Your Death
One reason that so many people think an estate plan isn’t necessary for a single adult is the also mistaken belief that estate planning is all about death. While it is true that estate planning helps to ensure that your estate assets are distributed according to your wishes after you are gone, a well-thought-out and properly drafted plan can accomplish much more. Planning for the very real possibility of incapacity, for example, is another common estate planning objective as are probate and tax avoidance. A comprehensive estate plan can also help you to protect and grow the assets you acquire over the course of your lifetime and make those assets work for you during your retirement years. Given the wide-ranging goals that an estate plan can help with, it becomes easier to understand why every adult needs one.
Concerns for the Single Estate Planner
Whether you are still a young adult who plans to marry and become a parent at some point, are a newly divorced single parent, or you have simply made the decision to remain single and never marry, there are several reasons why estate planning is particularly important for you, including:
- Avoiding an intestate estate – whether you have already amassed a sizeable fortune, or you have a modest estate, you likely care what happens to the assets you do own if something happens to you. If you die without at least a basic Will in place, the State of California gets to decide who receives your assets. Close friends, favorite nieces and nephews, and beloved charities will receive nothing from your estate.
- Choosing a guardian for your children – if you are a single parent, one of the most powerful reasons to execute a Will is because it offers you the only official opportunity to nominate a Guardian for your children should one ever be needed.
- Protecting your assets in the event of incapacity – if you are incapacitated because of a tragic accident or debilitating illness, someone must take over control of your assets. Without an estate plan in place that addresses the issue of incapacity, your family members could end up in court battling over the right to be that person. That litigation could cause a divide in the family for many years to come. Moreover, the person who does end up with control of your assets might not be the person you want to control them.
- Deciding who will make health care decisions for you – the same basic concept applies to making health care decisions for you in the event of your incapacity. If you did not execute the appropriate advance directive as part of your overall estate plan, a court may end up deciding who will be in charge of making a life and death decision for you if you cannot make them yourself.