Being a single adult, whether by choice or circumstance, comes with several positives, many of which revolve around independence and self-determination. Without the responsibilities that often come with a committed relationship or family, single individuals have the liberty to make choices solely based on their preferences, whether it's career moves, travel plans, or even simple daily routines. The choice to establish an estate plan, however, is a crucial one!
Estate planning is often associated with families—how parents can best ensure their children's well-being or how spouses can protect each other financially in the event of a tragedy. Estate planning is just as critical - if not more - for single adults, though, and they face unique considerations and challenges that are often overlooked. Let's explore some of these hurdles and how best to overcome them.
Who Will Be Your Advocate?
One of the main difficulties for single adults is deciding who will make medical and financial decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. Unlike married individuals, who often default to their spouse for such roles, single adults don't have this 'built-in' option.
Solution: Consider naming a close friend, relative, or even a professional fiduciary as your healthcare proxy and Power of Attorney. Make sure to discuss your wishes with this person in depth.
In the absence of a will or other estate planning tools, state laws generally prioritize spouses and children when distributing assets. Single adults without children may find that their assets go to a more distant relative, which might not be in line with their wishes.
Solution: Create a Will or Trust that clearly specifies your intended beneficiaries, whether they're relatives, friends, or charitable organizations.
Overlooking the Need for a Comprehensive Plan
There is a common misconception that estate planning is not necessary for single adults, especially those without substantial assets or dependents. This is far from the truth; without proper planning, you leave the fate of your medical care, assets, and even your beloved pets up in the air.
Solution: Consult with an estate planning attorney to build a comprehensive estate plan that includes a Trust, Will, Power of Attorney, healthcare directives, and other applicable instruments.
Married individuals have various options for claiming Social Security benefits, including spousal and survivor benefits, which are not available to single adults.
Solution: Consult a financial advisor to make informed decisions about when to claim Social Security and how to optimize your retirement savings for longevity.
Estate planning is crucial for everyone, regardless of marital status. While single adults face unique considerations, careful planning and professional guidance can help navigate these complexities successfully. Solo individuals should choose to pursue estate planning to maintain their autonomy and self-determination, ensuring their wishes and values continue to be honored, even when they're not able to express them personally.