Estate planning can seem fairly simple when you have a clear idea of who your beneficiaries and representatives will be, but what if you don’t? Most people choose close family members, such as their spouse or their children, to be the recipients of their estate and the decision-makers in the event of their death, but not everyone has that option.
There can be a number of reasons to have no immediate or obvious beneficiaries. Perhaps you never married or recently became widowed or divorced. Maybe you decided not to have children, or just haven’t had them yet. Many people are marrying and having children later in life, but that doesn’t mean you should wait to create your estate plans.
Estate planning when you are single, or have no beneficiaries, can be more important than estate planning as a married individual with children. Find out why, and what your estate planning options are as a single person, in this article.
What Happens if I Die Intestate?
- Your spouse
- Your children, or, if they are not alive, your grandchildren
- Your parents
- Your siblings, or if they have passed away, your nieces/nephews
- Your grandparents, and if they have passed away, your aunts and/or uncles
- Any children of your deceased spouse
- Any relatives of your deceased spouse
- Your state of legal residence
- Your partner
- A close friend
- A charity or other organization
- A scholarship or educational institution
- In a trust to care for a minor or a pet
- A sibling
- A business partner
What’s the difference between an ’heir’ and a ’beneficiary’? An heir is generally a blood relative. When you don’t have a Last Will, your estate is given to your next surviving heir. A beneficiary is someone who you name in your Last Will to receive all or part of your estate. It can be anyone that you choose.
What if I Don't Have a Personal Health Care Agent?
I Have a Partner, but We're Not Married
I am Single With Children
I am a Single Business Owner
How do I Start Estate Planning?
- An executor in your Last Will and Testament. This person will enforce the decisions made in your Will, as well as see to the closing of your estate once you have passed away. You may also have co-executors if you wish to have more than one person represent you. The executor of your Will can also oversee your End-of-Life Plan, which includes finalizing arrangements regarding your death notice or obituary, funeral, and more.
- A personal representative in your Health Care Directive or Medical Power of Attorney. This person will either enforce decisions that you have made in regards to your personal health care, or they will have the right to make decisions on your behalf, should you become unable to make them for yourself.
- Beneficiaries. These are the people or organizations that will receive the benefits of your estate.
- An attorney-in-fact. This is the person who will have the right to make decisions on your behalf if you are away due to travel, or you become incapacitated. You may name one to manage all of your affairs, or co-attorneys-in-fact if you have more than one person who you would like to represent you.
- A guardian for any minor children or pets. This individual will be responsible for the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of your child or pet if you pass away.
- A trustee if you are setting up a trust. Generally, this person will manage financial affairs on behalf of a minor until they are old enough to inherit.