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  • Michael J. Greenberg

I’m single with no children. Why do I need an Estate Plan?

Many people assume that estate planning is for married couples, but that is a fallacy. Single people should have an estate plan too, for several reasons.


A single person may want to protect themselves should they need someone to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf. Alternatively, they may wish to focus on providing for other family members and cherished friends. Still, others may focus on establishing a legacy through planned giving, either during or after their lifetime.


No one wants to consider the worst-case scenario, but anyone who reads the news sees that tragedies do happen. Whether a car accident, a major illness, or senseless violence, things can happen that leave you incapacitated.


If you are seriously injured and need medical assistance, you want to appoint a health care proxy. This is the one person that you want to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself (after an accident or while under anesthesia). 


While a spouse is the natural and legal health care proxy for a married person and parents are health care proxies for a minor child, a single adult does not have a natural proxy. Therefore, the state could appoint one for you and it might not be the person you prefer. Perhaps you are no longer close to your parents or adult siblings or have no living close relatives. Perhaps you are close to your relatives, but they would be too frazzled during an emergency to make tough decisions.


If you are unable to make medical decisions, you might also be temporarily unable to handle your finances. Should you have a close and trusted friend or family member, you can consider appointing them as your agent under a Power of Attorney, with the right to handle your finances in your best interests while you are unable to do so. For example, if you are in a coma, your agent can pay your rent and other bills, avoiding massive financial or legal complications when you recover.


How do you want your property and savings distributed when you pass? Do you want it to be distributed according to state law, to parents and siblings? Or would you prefer a different split and some of your money to go to your favorite charities or dear friends? Maybe you have promised special objects, a favorite piece of art, a watch or jewelry, to specific people and want to be sure they get them. If so, you need a Will.


If you have minor nieces or nephews that you want to bequeath money to, you might also want a minor trust. You don’t want to give money outright to a five-year-old and might not want your sister- or brother-in-law controlling your money without some parameters.


For those of you that have a beloved dog, cat, or cockatoo, you might consider a pet trust.  A pet trust can be created upon your death and you can bequeath your pet to a friend or family member while ensuring they have money to cover all their expenses (food, vet visits, toys, dog walking, boarding, etc.). 


Being single doesn’t make your estate plans less important - in fact, it makes it more important and more necessary to protect yourself and your legacy.


For a consultation to discuss your estate plan, reach out to Michael Greenberg or call 212-401-5750.

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