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Friday, June 30, 2017

Are You Single?

More than half of all adults in America are single.  It is common to hear singles say they don’t have many assets, so having a will or other estate planning documents are not necessary.  Consider that modern estate planning is less about money, and more about control.  Whether single, married, divorced or widowed,  with or without children, most people want to control their life while they are alive, and then choose who will be in control should they become disabled. They also want to leave what assets they do have, to whom they want, while not leaving behind a legal mess for family members to unravel.

Whether you have children or not, the following are important estate planning issues for singles to consider:

Single with minor children:  It is vital to designate whom you wish to serve as their guardian.  Think about this.  Even if your children have a surviving parent, they may not be your choice to serve as guardian.  What about leaving assets to your minor children?  Realistically, leaving an inheritance to minor children can be fraught with risks.  Who manages the assets for your minor children?  Should you select your ex-spouse, or perhaps another family member? Often parents select one person to serve as guardian for minor children, name another individual to manage and invest assets for their children, and possibly choose a third to determine asset distributions.

Single with adult childrenWhen a child turns 18,  legally he or she is fully capable to receive their inheritance and make life decisions, such as selecting a college, or managing and spending their own money.  Do 401(k) and IRA accounts constitute a significant portion of your estate? Severe and irreversible tax consequences can result from careless withdrawals from these inherited assets by “young” beneficiaries. Any concerns about your child inheriting a large amount of life insurance money? Parents of 18-year olds recognize that while their child is technically an adult, it may be much too early to expect thoughtful decisions regarding their future and their finances.  

Single without children:  If you are single without children, keep in mind that Florida law provides that your assets be inherited by your parents.  If your parents do not survive you, your assets will be inherited by your surviving siblings.  Having a will is essential if you wish to leave your assets to anyone other than your immediate family.

Illness or disability:  Whether you have children or not, there are important decisions to make regarding who is authorized by you to assist with medical and financial matters should you become ill or disabled.  Advance legal directives, in the form of health care powers of attorney, durable powers of attorney, living wills, and HIPAA releases, insure your bases are covered in various scenarios.  Without such documents, urgent medical care, managing a business or your finances, and communicating with governmental agencies such as the IRS, or Social Security Administration, may need to be determined by the court.

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