A recent article entitled “Even ‘singles’ need estate plans” in Pauls Valley Democrat tells us what might happen if someone dies intestate (without a last will and testament). In that case, any assets without a surviving joint owner or designated beneficiary or titled in a trust may be required to pass through the probate process. As a result, they’ll be distributed by the court, according to the state’s intestate succession laws, not the deceased’s wishes.
A single person’s estate plan can make sure they leave their assets to exactly the people they want. Maybe they have nephews or nieces, children of cousins or friends, or friends to whom they want to leave some assets. However, if they die intestate, there’s no guarantee that these people will get what the decedent wanted them to have. Therefore, if a single person wants to leave something to family members or close friends, they need to state this in their last will and testament or trust. Estate planning can be complex, so it’s important to work with a skilled Massachusetts estate planning attorney.
The person may also want to provide support to some charities. They can just name these charities in their will. However, there may be options that could provide the single person with additional benefits. One such possibility is a charitable remainder trust. With this trust, the single person would transfer appreciated assets, such as stocks, mutual funds, or other securities, into an irrevocable trust. Their named trustee could then sell the assets at full market value, avoiding the capital gains taxes the single person would have to pay if they sold the assets outside a trust.
Moreover, if they itemize, they may be able to claim a charitable deduction on their taxes. With the proceeds, the trust can purchase income-producing assets and provide them with an income stream for the rest of their life. At their death, the remaining trust assets will go to the charities that they have named.
A single person’s estate plan should also have a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy. A durable power of attorney allows someone to designate an individual to manage their finances if they become incapacitated. A health care proxy allows an individual to name another person to legally make health care decisions for them if they become unable to do so.
As an experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorney, I’ll work to create an estate plan that protects you, your loved ones, and your assets, and also distributes your assets according to your wishes. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.