Estate Planning for Singles: 4 Key Considerations

May 9, 2022 by Ciolino & Onstott

Estate Planning for Singles: 4 Key Considerations
4 Key Considerations for Estate Planning as a Single Person
Estate planning is crucial for everyone, even when you are single! In fact, it may be more important for those of us who are single, because it is more likely that the law will pass your assets, money, business interests, and other belongings to relatives you may not expect. 

If you are a single person in Louisiana without children, and you pass without a will, your assets are most likely going to be distributed to your surviving parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews. If you do not have any of those, then your assets will be given to cousins or more distant relatives; and if no relative can be found, all of your assets will be given to the state! However, with an estate plan, including a will, you can make sure that the people you care about the most recieve your assets when you pass.   

Yet, estate planning for singles in is more than thinking about who will "get" your money and assets when you pass. It is also about who can make decisions for you if it becomes necessary. It's about how you may be able to preserve your assets, including your money, to take care of yourself in the future. 

So, estate planning for single adults is absolutely crucial regardless of whether you're a single parent or not, and whether you currently have lots of assets or you don't. You need to create an estate plan that fits your needs. 

In this blog post, we're going to look at some key considerations involved in estate planning for singles. This isn't a complete list because the concept of estate planning for single adults depends on the needs of the person involved. So, after you read this blog post and you're ready to begin the planning process, or if you have questions, schedule your free consultation with Ciolino & Onstott, LLC

This blog post is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. If you need legal advice about succession or estate planning for single adults in Louisiana, schedule a free consultation with Ciolino & Onstott

Why Is Estate Planning Important for Single as Well as Married Individuals? 

Single adults have just as many reasons to create an appropriate estate plan as married adults. Louisiana estate planning may be even more important. Take property ownership as an example. Louisiana intestate laws for married couples ensure that a person's spouse has access to their assets after they pass through concepts known as usufruct and naked ownership. Those concepts are complicated and we discuss them further in another blog post. For single people, there is no assurance that those who rely on you during your life will be supported after you pass.

If you co-own property or a business with others, it can be even more shocking when someone dies, especially without an estate plan. In Louisiana, there's no such thing as joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. This means that if you're a single adult and you own a home, land, or a business with someone and you die and do not have a proper estate plan, that person does not necessarily inherit your share of the home, property, or business. Without an estate plan, Louisiana intestate law will take effect for your succession. The co-owner could own the home, property, or business with your siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins, or someone else they never expected. 

Related: No Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship

There's also the definition of the word "single." You may cohabitate with someone. Perhaps you've lived with them for a very long time. Perhaps you want to make sure that they are cared for when you pass away. Louisiana does not recognize common law marriage or cohabitation. If you're not legally married in Louisiana, or if you're not in a legal domestic partnership registered from another state, you are single. 

While we will get into this concept separately, estate planning for single parents is critical. As a single parent, the other parent may or may not be involved in your child's life. And what do you do if you or the other parent moves away? And what happens if the other parent just isn't involved or is abusive to your child? Your child's well-being if something happens to you is just one concern that must be at the top of your list in addition to your assets. 

Before we get to that, let's look at part of estate planning that all single adults should include: powers of attorney. 

Estate Planning for Single Person: Powers of Attorney

Powers of attorney are legally binding documents that give someone the authority to do something on your behalf. As a single adult, it is likely that you may want to create two specific powers of attorney to be used as part of your estate plan: a financial power of attorney and medical power of attorney. Let's look at each of these and what your agent could do on your behalf. Then we will discuss the importance of choosing the agent. 

Louisiana Financial Power of Attorney

The agent in a financial power of attorney is the individual who carries out financial transactions (such as signing checks or opening a bank account) on your behalf. The duration and scope of the agent's authority are explained in the Louisiana financial power of attorney statute. No matter who you choose, the agent must be responsible, keep detailed records regarding the financial transactions they take on your behalf and have the time available to dedicate to the role. If you don't have anyone you can trust to take on this role, you can hire a professional. 

Louisiana Medical Power of Attorney

If you cannot communicate or make medical decisions, your agent will do it for you. By properly naming an agent in your Louisiana medical power of attorney, you retain control over who will make medical decisions on your behalf instead of allowing a judge to name someone for you. When choosing this person, you must make sure that they will respect your wishes regarding your medical decisions and are available to make or communicate them to medical professionals. You can name a close friend or a trusted professional if you have no trusted family members, such as a sibling. However, Louisiana law prevents you from naming your doctor from acting as your agent unless they are related to you. 

Choosing the Right Agent

When you create any power of attorney, you need an agent. Maybe you want the same agent for both the financial and medical power of attorney. Maybe you decide to separate those documents and have two separate agents. Regardless, you need to choose suitable agents to handle your financial transactions and to make or communicate your medical decisions on your behalf. 

If you do not have an agent named to assist you with finances and healthcare, and if you're unable to make these decisions, the court will name someone to make these decisions for you. So, choose agents (separately for each power of attorney form or one agent you can trust to make decisions in both instances) who you trust or hire professionals to handle your financial and medical affairs. 

Why Should I Have a Trust If I'm Single?

If you're single, the ultimate answer to having a trust depends on your goals. However, there are still benefits. For example, consider that you never quite know what the future will hold. Placing your assets in a trust can help protect your child in the event that you pass away when they are still too young to responsibly manage any assets you may have left them. Think about this: would you feel comfortable with your child or children taking possession of everything that you own in a single transfer? If something happens to you before they are mature enough to manage their property, they may cause harm to themselves through inheritance? With a trust, you have more control over what they get, when they get it, and even what it can be used for. 

Of course, determining if a trust is right for you is a decision that is best made with a Louisiana estate planning attorney. Ciolino & Onstott, LLC provides free initial consultation. You can schedule yours now to learn more about whether a trust would help you meet your estate planning needs. 

Estate Planning for Single Parents: Key Questions to Answer

Estate planning for single parents takes on a special urgency. It's not only about who gets your "stuff" in Louisiana succession. It's also who will take care of your children. This becomes especially important if the other parent isn't involved or is abusive. A Last Will and Testament provides you with the power to start the guardianship process by naming the person you want to care for your children. 

If you have assets that will be used to take care of your minor children ad those are left in a trust or another estate planning device, who will act as trustee? Will it be a separate person other than the one named to take care of your children? This strategy acts as a form of checks and balances. This is crucial if the assets will also be given to your children when they become adults. 

Speaking of children growing into adults, one common question we're asked is: What age should a child be, 18 or 21, when they receive the estate? You can answer this question for yourself by asking yourself how comfortable you would be with your child having everything you own when they turn 18 and when they turn 21. 

If the answer is yes, you're comfortable but with some caveats, what are those caveats? Do you want them to only get certain assets? Can they only do certain things with the money? When you create an estate plan to take care of your minor children, those are things you can do. 

What if you're a single parent now who currently doesn't have assets, but you're on track to wealth or inheritance? You still need an estate plan. It helps you where you're at in naming a guardian for your children. It helps you with the assets you do have. And as you gain wealth and assets, you revisit your estate plan and make the required changes. 

Free Consult: Estate Planning for Single Adults

Completing your estate plan allows you to take control by providing instructions about what will happen during your life and when you pass. Estate plans can be drafted in several ways to ensure that your unique wishes are carried out. Schedule your consultation with Ciolino & Onstott to learn more about how we can help ensure that your legacy is protected and that the people and causes you care about are provided for. 

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