You may have friends and acquaintances around your age who are making plans for the future. That may include planning for retirement, downsizing their homes or writing their wills. While you may have similar goals in the near future, perhaps you have not given much thought to estate planning because you are single with no children. Unlike your friends with kids, you may feel there is no need to provide for your heirs. However, estate planning is much more than this.
Your plan for the end of your life can have many facets, some of which will be critical if an emergency arises and you are unable to speak for yourself. Understanding the options available to you for planning your estate may lead you to realize the time is here to seek advice about the appropriate steps for your circumstances.
What can an estate plan do for you?
Since you do not have children or a spouse who will naturally inherit your assets, having a will may be even more important. If you die without a will, the courts will follow the law of succession, which means your belongings will likely go to your closest relatives in a particular order. Your long-term partner, close friend or special charity will have no legal claim.
Certainly, you want the assets and valuables you have spent a lifetime earning and acquiring to go to those whom you choose, not those whom the court or the laws of North Carolina choose. A will can allow you to make those decisions. Your will also names the executor of your estate, who is the person you appoint to handle your affairs through probate. However, a will is just the start of a complete and effective estate plan. Other elements can include the following:
- A revocable trust to protect your assets and allow them to provide for your loved ones after your death
- A power of attorney designating someone to manage your legal and financial matters if you become incapacitated
- A health care proxy allowing your chosen agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot
Without a power of attorney and health care proxy, your loved ones will have to waste precious time going to court for permission to act in your name. Additionally, you can use your estate plan to outline your wishes for the end of your life, including which medical procedures to withhold and when. You may have many questions about your options and unique needs as a single person. Seeking answers to those questions is the first step to creating an estate plan that will help you meet your goals.