There is no doubt that estate planning is often talked about in terms of planning for married couples and families. However, estate planning for single people is just as important, if not more. It is often difficult to decide who you want to receive your assets after you die. Singles must also take into account that they must choose someone whom they trust to carry out their end of life decisions. It isn’t as simple as choosing your spouse because you have to really trust these people to follow through with your wishes. Without an estate plan, your assets will go through probate court and be divided according to state law. This usually entails distributing your assets to your closest living relatives, such as parents, siblings, or nieces and nephews. This process can be tragic if you had different ideas about who you wanted to receive your assets.

With an estate plan, there is a will which will allow you to tailor who you want to receive your assets. In addition, if you happen to have minor children, you can designate a guardian for them. A lot of thought should go into who you want to receive personal property items, like a house or other items of sentimental value. Life insurance and retirement accounts can be easily transferred through the beneficiary designation. It is important to update beneficiary designations on these accounts through the years in case family or friend dynamics change. However, something to note is that whoever is listed as the beneficiary on these accounts will receive those assets regardless of what your will says about the accounts. For example, if your accounts say that the beneficiary is Joe but your will says that the beneficiary is John, Joe will benefit from the account. Therefore, updating the account beneficiary directly is crucial. [1]

Another aspect of estate planning is selecting who you want to be your power of attorney for financial and medical decisions if you become unable to do so. For financial decisions, many single people choose a family member or close friend. However, it is important to select someone that you trust to keep up with your finances in addition to their own. With medical decisions, you are selecting someone that has the authority to make treatment and healthcare decisions on your behalf. While some people name the same person that they chose for their financial power of attorney, it is not necessarily required. It is very important that the person you choose understands your wishes and will respect them when it comes down to it. [2]

When someone dies, their estate is possibly subject to estate taxes. In some cases, these taxes are very hefty and can take a significant amount of one’s wealth. If this concerns you, you may want to consider planning alternatives and separate types of trusts or possibly charitable giving. Trusts can allow you to get very specific with how you want your assets to be divided and when. Trusts are also more private than a will as they do not go though probate. To demonstrate the flexibility and specific asset divisions trusts can allow, you can look at how individuals leave assets to minor children. With a will, minor children will receive their inheritance in a lump sum when they reach 18 years old. This is worrisome to some people if they don’t trust them to spend their money wisely. With a trust, many people will create an education fund that their assets go to and can be accessed when the child goes to college; or, some people simply dictate that the trust distributes the assets in smaller increments over time rather than one lump sum. Trusts allow for greater flexibility and individual tailoring.

There are some single people who may not have any living relatives or friends that they want to give their assets to. In this case, there are many people who decide to give their assets to charity, organizations, or schools.  If you are involved in an organization or simply want to donate to a cause that you care about, your estate plan can account for this wish. This is why estate planning is so important, even for single people. You may feel as though you have no one to benefit from your estate, but there are always options. Remember, without an plan in place, your assets might go to people who you didn’t intend and people who you would not have selected could be making important decisions if you become incapacitated.

[1] “Estate Planning For The Single Person”. Legalzoom.Com, 2018,

[2] Forbes.Com, 2018,