As the number of cohabiting unmarried couples rises, more families have multiple generations residing in a single household, and the law develops regarding the rights of married same-sex couples in North Carolina, a large demographic of our state’s residents is overlooked: Singles.
Estate planning is not just for families and couples. Individuals not currently in a committed relationship still benefit from a proper estate plan. Multiple areas can be addressed in an estate plan for an individual that could provide important protections. From naming beneficiaries to critical health care decisions, here are a few items singles should address with their North Carolina estate planning attorney:
Beneficiary designations. In addition to keeping an up-to-date Will, ensure beneficiary designations on retirement, insurance, and certain other accounts name the individuals or charities you wish assets to go to in the event of your death. According to the Kids Count Data Center’s 2012 figures, almost 25 million children live in single parent households. Singles who have dependent children may want to review issues that develop when minors inherit assets, and also decide who would serve as guardian of the children. Without a proper plan, North Carolina guardianship laws may dictate a court-appointed guardian.
Living trust. If you want to ensure assets pass on to loved ones according to your wishes, you may initially rely on a Will. However, Wills are publicly recorded through probate. During probate a family member may contest a Will. If this happens, there is a chance assets could pass on against the wishes you included in your Will. To ensure confidentiality and that assets are not subject to lengthy and often costly probate process, include assets in a living trust. A living revocable trust may be amended at any time and only becomes irrevocable upon the trust creator’s death.
Powers of attorney. In the event of incapacitation, singles and unmarried couples benefit from preparing powers of attorney. These documents can appoint another person with the authority to make important financial and/or medical decisions on your behalf. Without one, an incapacitated single person’s course of medical treatment may be the decision of a parent or court-appointed agent and may not follow the individual’s wishes.