The landscape of the American population is ever changing. In 1970, approximately one-third of Americans age 15 and older were single. In 2013, that number had risen to nearly one-half. With a growing population of single individuals, it is important to recognize the implications on estate planning. While much of the attention on estate planning may focus on those who are married and have families of their own, the reality is that estate planning can be even more important for those who are single. Those included within the singles population may include divorced individuals, those who have never married, and widowed individuals. If you have questions about how estate planning may affect you, contact the Nashville estate planning lawyers at The Higgins Firm.
Each state has enacted laws that determine where a person’s assets should pass without a will or trust in place. These laws, known as the laws of intestacy, are the default rules for asset transfer following a death. Under the laws of intestacy, assets end up passing to the closest relatives in equal shares without exception. Depending on your particular situation, this transfer may not be what you would desire. For example the laws of intestacy in Tennessee do not provide for the transfer of assets to close friends, more distant relatives, domestic partners, or charitable organization no matter how close you may have actually been to the person or organization. For this very reason, it is important to set forth your specific wishes in an estate planning document like a will.
In addition, it is equally as important for single people to explicitly appoint someone to handle financial and medical affairs in the event that he or she was unable to make decisions for him or herself. Often a power of attorney for finances or health care can be utilized to allocate decision making authority to another individual. With married people, that responsibility will naturally lie with the spouse. However, with a single person, that decision may lie potentially with a relative who may not know your desires or even a stranger appointed by the state. Without having a spouse or child to rely upon, choosing the right person to serve in that role can be crucial to ensuring that your needs are met for your finances and health care.
Similarly, designating a beneficiary on certain accounts like a retirement account can be very important for those who may be single. By listing a beneficiary on an account, the listed individual will be able to inherit the account without the need for probate. These beneficiary designations will supersede anything that is listed within a will. Otherwise, by listing the estate as the beneficiary of an account or simply leaving the beneficiary designation blank, the funds from the account will be considered a part of the estate and will be administered according to the laws of intestacy in the probate court. Choosing a designated beneficiary can be a great way for single people to ensure that a portion of their assets are passed to the right person.
If you have questions regarding how your marital status or family situation may affect estate planning, contact the Tennessee estate planning attorneys at The Higgins Firm. Our Nashville based lawyers would be happy to answer your questions.