No two single people are exactly alike. Some have never been in a relationship, while others have long-term romantic partners. Some are single parents by choice or have children from a past relationship, while others have no dependents to provide for. Some are close to their extended family members, while others are not. What they all have in common, however, is the need for a personalized estate plan that protects their assets and ensures decisions will be made according to their wishes if they become disabled or otherwise unable to speak for themselves.
When a person dies without a valid will in place, their assets are passed on according to the laws of intestate succession. This approach favors the closest living blood relative. If you have no spouse and no children, your parents become your beneficiaries. If your parents aren’t living, your siblings are next in line.
Obviously, the rules of intestate succession don’t take into account personal preferences. For single adults, preferred beneficiaries might be unmarried romantic partners, extended family, close friends, or charitable organizations. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you create a will that clearly outlines who should receive your property. However, it is important to remember that assets such as retirement accounts that have named beneficiaries pass outside the will and must be handled separately.
In some cases, your attorney might recommend a trust. A trust works with your will to give you more control over how your assets are used. It allows you to designate an inheritance for specific purposes, such as paying for your niece or nephew’s college education. If you have a high net worth, a trust can also be used to reduce or eliminate estate taxes.
Power of Attorney
Power of attorney lets the person you choose manage your financial affairs. This includes paying your bills, depositing checks, and managing investments. This could take effect due to your temporary incapacity or as a result of a permanent impairment.
Your power of attorney should be someone you trust who is over age 18. They are legally obligated to protect your assets and keep careful records, but they still have a fair amount of discretionary authority.
You can name more than one person as your power of attorney, but this increases the potential for conflict in decision making. Generally, it is better to name your second choice as an alternate who can serve if the first person is unable or unwilling.
A healthcare proxy is also known as a healthcare agent or healthcare power of attorney. This is the person of your choice who has the authority to make decisions about your medical treatment if you become too ill or injured to speak for yourself. This could be due to a temporary condition caused by a car accident or a permanent impairment such as age-related dementia.
The only requirement for a healthcare proxy in Virginia is that they are at least 18 years old. You should choose someone you trust who is aware of your specific wishes regarding your medical treatment. If you believe it is appropriate, you can name the same person for your healthcare proxy and power of attorney. As with the financial power of attorney, it is a good idea to choose an alternate person who can serve if your first choice is unable or unwilling. It is best to avoid choosing two people to jointly fill this role to remove any conflict when decisions must be made in a timely matter.
Your living will outlines the type of medical treatment you wish to receive in an emergency. It covers issues such as mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, dialysis, comfort care, and organ donation. Your healthcare proxy and your doctors will use this document to guide decisions regarding your medical care.
Do You Need To Speak With A Lawyer About Estate Planning?
If you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer please contact us online or call our Virginia Beach office directly at 757.490.3500 to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Suffolk.