Summary: Estate planning documents such as a will, power of attorney, and an advance directive for health care can be just as essential for single people as those who are married and/or parents.
Some people may believe that if they are single, do not have any children, and are in relatively good health, that they do not need an estate plan. Or, they might think that an estate plan is not a high priority. But this is a misconception, as documents such as Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Healthcare Directives can be just as important for single people as these documents are for married couples and/or parents. Drawing up an estate plan provides friends and family with specific instructions on how to manage a person’s affairs, which can ultimately save everyone time, money, and stress.
Last Will and Testament
A will is a legal document in which a person provides instructions for the distribution of his or her assets, upon death. It ensures that your property goes to the individuals that you want, how you want, and when. According to the American Bar Association, more than half of the U.S. population dies without having a will in place. In these circumstances, the court then decides when the person’s property goes, based on state law. (In Georgia, the property would likely go to the person’s closest living relatives). If a person – single, married, or otherwise – wants to leave specific property to family members, loved ones, friends, charities, etc., then he or she must have a will in place.
For more advice on when to create a will, visit our blog “When Should I Start Thinking About Making a Will?”
Power of Attorney
This document enables a person to act on your behalf in the event of your disability. A power of attorney can manage affairs including financial matters, real estate transactions, and other legal decisions. Without a power of attorney, no one can manage your financials unless the court appoints a conservator or guardian – and that appointed person may not be who you prefer. So, in other words, if you are a single person with business or financial holdings, you want to identify a power of attorney who can help manage these accounts or operations if you are unable to, due to incapacity or illness. Even if you do not have special business issues, a power of attorney will let someone sign hospital admission paperwork on your behalf, re-direct your mail, go to the bank for you, and many other necessary day-to-day things that you might not have considered being unable to do on your own.
Advance Directive for Health Care
This is a form in which a person lists his or her health care preferences in detail (ex: treatment, medical testing, care options). It puts family members, doctors, and hospitals on notice – and is only used if the person is unable to communicate his or her own wishes. An individual can designate a healthcare power of attorney to make health care decisions; typically, unmarried partners or friends cannot make medical decisions for each other, without signed authorization. Without a health care power of attorney or an advance health care directive in place, the court may appoint a guardian; again, this person may not be your preferred medical decision maker. Court involvement also takes time, which may not be fast enough for you to receive the medical treatment you prefer (as health care is often time sensitive). Having the paperwork already done and on file with your doctor and hospital is critical.
For more advice on selecting a Healthcare Power of Attorney, read our blog “How to Choose Your Medical Decision Maker.”
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