Future planning and decision making can be a challenge. Planning for your estate can be even more complex because thinking about death can be difficult. However uncomfortable the idea, the truth is that regardless of your age, income, and or marital status, making plans for your properties and assets and affairs in advance gives you an opportunity to leave documentation outlining your intentions and wishes.
Also, keep in mind that estate planning for a single person is about more than just the distribution of your assets. Estate Planning also includes appointing individuals to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to while you are living.
What Can Happen Without a Plan
More than half of the population in the US over 55 years old die without having a Will. Without a will, the individual’s assets may not be distributed as they intended.
When a person dies intestate (without a will), the distribution of their assets depends on intestacy statute in the state they live in. In the case of a single person dying intestate, here is how their property would be distributed in Pennsylvania:
The share of the estate will pass in the following order:
- Issue – To the children of the decedent
- Parents – If there are no children, then to the parents or parent of the decedent
- Brothers, sisters, or their issue – If no parent survives the decedent, then to the decedent’s siblings
- If there are no longer surviving parents or siblings, the assets would be divided among the remaining family members.
- If none of these scenarios applies, assets will be distributed to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
How to Start Setting Up Your Wills and Trusts
If you have plans for your assets or specific wishes, it is important to spell out those wishes in wills and trusts. These legal documents help ensure final wishes are fulfilled. If you are familiar with how wills and trusts work for couples, know that the process is different for single people. Here are the main differences:
- A typical scenario for married couples is to designate one another as the beneficiary should anything happen. A single person needs to be particularly careful in choosing which family member or friend to name.
- A spouse could leave the property to their partner without paying estate taxes if they hold the property jointly. However, singles would need to pay up estate taxes, most especially if the value of their estate exceeds the federal estate tax exclusion. You can avoid a large estate tax if you set up a trust, but make sure to ask your lawyer about this option.
Other important things to note:
- Make sure that your estate plan aligns with all of your investment, retirement, and death and life insurance plans. If your intention is to leave everything to your mother, but forget that your life and death insurance and other investments name your father, then the designated beneficiary designation is going to prevail and your mother will not be the beneficiary of all of your assets.
Always check local estate planning laws per state and consult with a local wills & trusts attorney to best understand your specific situation.
Estate Planning for Single Person – Get Started Today!
While estate planning is not the kind of planning anyone looks forward to, early preparation is key. An estate lawyer can help. An experienced estate planning attorney understands the ins and outs of the process, can answer any concerns you have, and help you customize a plan to meet your needs – whatever your marital or financial status.
Need a will & estate planning service in Wormleysburg, PA? Cherewka Law has been committed to assisting people in protecting what is important to them for over 30 years. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive, highly personalized planning services to individuals, couples, families, and businesses in estate planning, estate administration, and more. Contact us today.