Estate planning often focuses on married couples, but estate planning for a single person is equally as important. A single person often owns assets in their name individually, which means these assets must go through the probate process when the person dies. The big question then becomes whom do these assets pass to? In addition, asset protection and Medicaid issues become more important to address with a single person than a married couple.
A single person like any other person can own many assets and have a desire to see those assets distributed to certain people. Some assets, such as life insurance and retirement plans, are distrusted at death according to the beneficiary designations. If a person dies without a will, his or her possessions are passed intestate according to the intestate laws of the state. For a single person, the state law usually provides that a single person’s assets are passed to his or her closest relatives. If there are no relatives then the assets are collected by the state. So estate planning is needed if a person wants a say in how his or her assets will distributed.
What documents does a single person need?
A will acts as the foundation of an estate plan and serves as the blueprint for how a person’s assets are distributed after death. A will allows this person to name a guardian for young children. A will also assign an executor to help guide beneficiaries through the probate process. The executor can be a trustworthy friend or family member. A will allows the testator, or will maker, to take his or her beneficiaries thoughts into account.
A durable power of attorney is a document that lets a person appoint someone to manage your day-to-day financial and personal affairs if that person becomes incapacitated. A married person will usually name the spouse. We recommend a single person name a trusted family member or friend with a strong financial background. A medical power of attorney allows a third person to make decisions regarding a person’s health care and treatment. This does not have to be the same person who has the financial power of attorney. The person named in a health care power of attorney should be someone who respects your health care wishes, such as a choice not to be on life support when the odds of recovery are not good.
A will or trust are also great tools when planning for the distribution of your estate. With a will, you can direct whom will receive your assets through probate. A trust is a legal device that holds assets for one or more beneficiaries. A trust allows the beneficiaries to take the trust’s assets without going through the probate process.
While married couples can protect their assets by owning them a certain way, a single person does not have the ability to use Tenants by the entireties or have a spouse own their assets. It may be necessary to have a properly drafted LLC or Florida Asset Protection trust to help protect assets from creditors. In addition, the max non exempt assets a single person can have and be eligible for Medicaid is only $2000. Using certain trusts and other planning techniques into a single person can control assets and make them exempt from creditors as well as Medicaid (there is a 5 year look back for Medicaid planning).
If you are single and currently do no have an estate plan, we urge you to contact our office at 904-685-1200.