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Making an estate plan for singles

A will is just as important to an unmarried New York resident as it is to those with a spouse. Without a clear plan and directives, single people may risk having the distribution of their assets be determined by their state of residence.

When people die without a valid will, the state laws of intestacy determine to whom their property will go. For married individuals, state laws usually give assets to the spouse or a combination between the spouse and children. However, for single people, state law usually states that the remaining assets will go to the person who is the closest relationship to him or her, such as a child, parent or aunt. However, if there are no close relatives, assets may pass to the state. Having a comprehensive estate plan can prevent an unintended heir or the state from receiving a single person's belongings.

A will is the cornerstone of many estate plans. This document states how a person's estate should be distributed and who will be responsible for administering it. It may include special instructions regarding how to dispose of real property or property that has a heavy sentimental value. It also allows a person to appoint a guardian for any minor children. A durable power of attorney allows a person to appoint someone to act on his or her behalf regarding financial decisions. This power is retained if the person becomes incapacitated and is unable to make decisions for himself or herself. Many assets including checking accounts, savings accounts, life insurance, stocks and bonds that can be disposed of outside the probate process by properly completing beneficiary designation forms that state who will receive an asset after the person's death.

Single individuals who would like to be in charge of who receives his or her belongings after death may choose to discuss their preferences with an estate planning lawyer. Legal counsel might recommend and prepare the documents that are most appropriate for a client's particular situation.

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