If you’re single, you might think that estate planning is just for married couples and seniors. However, as the number of single and never-married Americans increases, we need to change that perception. A forward-thinking estate plan can protect you and your loved ones and help ensure your legacy whether you’re married or single.
The Number of Single and Never-Married Americans Is Growing
According to the Pew Research Center, there are more never-married and single Americans today than ever before. In 1960, only about 9% of the population had never married. Today, 20% of Americans have never tied the knot.
However, having never married doesn’t necessarily mean that people are single. An increasing number of couples today are opting against marriage and deciding to simply live together. In fact, about 24% of people who say they have never married actually live with a partner, and many of these couples have children.
As demographics change, we need to adjust our definition of a family unit. Unfortunately, without an estate plan, the state will divide your assets using inheritance laws that reflect the traditional marriage-oriented system.
Without an Estate Plan, Michigan’s Inheritance Rules Will Determine Who Gets Your Assets
When someone dies without an estate plan or will, the probate court will divide their property according to Michigan’s inheritance or intestacy laws. These laws give priority to certain relatives, especially spouses.
RELATED ARTICLE: Here’s How Probate Works in Michigan
If you don’t have a surviving spouse, the court will look for other heirs, such as:
- Descendants: If you have surviving children or grandchildren, the court will divide your estate between them.
- Parents: If you don’t have a spouse, children, or other descendants, your parents will get your estate.
- Siblings: Without a surviving spouse, descendants, or parents, your siblings, nieces, or nephews, will receive your estate.
If you don’t have any surviving heirs, the State of Michigan will claim your assets.
Inheritance laws are important since the courts need guidelines that tell them what to do when someone dies without a will. However, these laws often lead to unwanted results. For one thing, the inheritance laws in Michigan don’t acknowledge friends or longtime partners who have never married as viable heirs. As other examples, you might want to give your estate to a charitable organization or your alma mater, or you might want to split your estate between your parents and siblings. Under Michigan’s inheritance laws, none of these options are possible.
When you create an estate plan, which can include a will, trusts, and powers of attorney, you regain control of your legacy. You can allocate your assets in a way that best serves your long-term goals, whether that means funding a beloved niece’s or nephew’s college fund, supporting a non-profit organization’s mission, or helping your most loyal friends and companions achieve financial security.
An Estate Plan Can Empower a Trusted Friend or Family Member to Make Your End-of-Life Decisions
If you become incapacitated, someone will need to make important healthcare and financial decisions for you. When you’re married, your spouse will typically step in and help manage your care and assets. For unmarried and single people, however, the process often becomes a little more complicated.
RELATED ARTICLE: Why You Need a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
For example, if you don’t have a durable healthcare power of attorney, your family will have to make your healthcare decisions as a group. This can cause confusion, disagreements, and even unwanted treatments or disruptions in treatment. A healthcare power of attorney solves this problem by appointing an agent who can make decisions on your behalf and by outlining your treatment preferences, including your views on life support.
Importantly, your options for appointing healthcare or financial decisionmakers aren’t limited to family and friends. You can authorize a long-term partner, trusted friend, or any other person to step in and make your end-of-life decisions for you.
To learn more about powers of attorney, contact an estate planning attorney at Phillips & Santana today.
Single Parents Should Appoint a Guardian for Their Child
While estate planning is important for all families, it’s particularly pressing for single parents. If you’re a single parent and you die or become incapacitated without an estate plan in place, it can create a lot of uncertainty and anxiety over who should care for your child.
RELATED ARTICLE: How to Protect Your Children with an Estate Plan
An estate planning lawyer can help you appoint a legal guardian who will step in if the unthinkable happens. Appointing a guardian in advance can ease your child’s transition and save time and money in the long run. If you don’t work with an attorney to appoint a guardian for your child, a loved one will have to file a guardianship petition with the courts, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
Law Offices of Kari Santana: West Michigan’s Estate Planning Team
At the Law Offices of Kari Santana, we work with West Michigan residents at every life stage to build thoughtful estate plans that capture their wishes and meet their needs. We strive to build long-term relationships with our clients so we can help them adjust their estate plans as their priorities and families evolve.
If you’re ready to start creating your estate plan, contact the Law Offices of Kari Santana today for a free, no-risk consultation. Simply complete our online form or call our offices at 616-717-5759.
U.S. Census Bureau (2017, August 16). Facts for features: Unmarried and Single Americans Week. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2017/single-americans-week.html
Wang, W., & Parker, K. (2014, September 24). Record share of Americans have never married. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/09/24/record-share-of-americans-have-never-married/
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.