Solo Aging: Estate Planning for Singles
A great deal of the discussion from Orange County estate planning lawyers revolves around married couples who have children. While conversations regarding family estate plans are meaningful, those who live alone must also consider proposals for their futures, including post-death.
Since most states have legal precedents that automatically pass assets, property, and cash on to spouses and children, those living alone may have even more reason to meet with an estate planning attorney in Orange County. Creating a cohesive estate plan is the best way to protect and provide for your loved ones.
Solo Aging and Estate Planning
Here are some things to consider regarding estate planning for those who live alone.
Living Alone Defined
It could be easy to feel like there is something wrong about living alone. Even just the word “alone” has a multitude of negative connotations. People decide to live on their own for a variety of reasons. From having the power to set the thermostat to being able to enjoy peace and quiet, living alone offers many benefits. Sadly, these benefits do not extend to legal defaults for estates.
In regards to estate planning, living alone also includes those who live with friends, roommates, or significant others. Without some kind of legal bonding, like family ties, civil unions, or marriage, sharing space with others is still akin to living alone. On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who may not feel they have close family or friends and decide to live on their own.
Regardless of why someone lives alone, their financial legacy and final wishes are worth protecting. That’s where an Orange County estate planning lawyer can help.
What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is essentially a set of legal documents that helps instruct others on your final wishes. Most people think an estate plan is nothing more than a will. While a will is one of the significant pieces of a comprehensive estate plan, it isn’t everything.
Your estate plan will also include trusts, power of attorney, health care proxy, and a letter of intent. With an estate plan, you can decide who gets what parts of your assets and estate while potentially helping your beneficiaries avoid probate court, estate taxes, and more.
Estate plans are known to change. Events like getting married, having children, reaching financial success, buying a home, and more can lead to updates and changes to an estate plan. Even though your plan may go through several iterations before it’s fully put into use, it’s best to stay ahead and have a plan ready.
Some people feel that they need to wait until their lives are complete before worrying about what the end of life will look like. When these people die without a proper estate plan, their assets are distributed according to state law. Most states don’t take into consideration unmarried partners, close friends, or others that you might prefer to inherit your assets might not even be considered.
But there is something far worse than your estate being handed down to a family member you may not have chosen. If there are no surviving members of your family, your estate could just become the property of the state. That means your entire financial legacy goes to the government instead of someone of your choosing.
How You Own Things Matters
There is a rise in the number of partners who live together but are not married. There are even those who choose to remain unmarried and live alone even if they are in a committed relationship. Meeting with an estate planning lawyer in Orange County is especially essential for these groups of people. The laws tend to favor married couples.
When you own property or other significant assets, how things are titled plays a critical role in how these assets will be handled when you pass. One of the more common ways to title property is as tenants in common (TIC). This means that each person owns an interest in the property. When one person dies, their share is passed on, but the other share remains with the other original owner.
A better option for unmarried couples is joint tenant rights with rights of survivorship (JTWROS). When one partner dies, their share of the property goes directly to the surviving person.
Even if you don’t want to leave anything to another person, your estate planning lawyer can help you make the most of your estate while you’re alive to help pay for long-term care, etc. They can even help set up your estate to go to a charity of your choosing.
Livings Trusts Are Your Friend
With a living trust, a person of your choosing can take control of your estate if you are unable to care for yourself. This kind of trust is a legal entity that you create that is separate from you. You become the trustee, the person in charge of how the trust is used. You can even name a person or a succession of people to take over as successor trustee if you’re unable to manage your affairs.
Your living trust sets the rules of what the successor trustee can and cannot do with your assets. You leave a set of instructions on how you are cared for, along with how your money should be managed. You can also define the circumstances that would allow your successor trustee to take over. While a living trust may seem straightforward, make sure to talk to your Orange County living trust attorney about the best options for your unique situation.
Contact an Orange County Estate Planning Lawyer Today
Creating an estate plan is not the same as signing a death certificate. This plan is a vital way to protect your financial legacy while taking control of your estate. Creating an estate plan is not something you want to try on your own, even if it seems like a simple task. Making even a single mistake can mean your wishes aren’t followed.
Estate planning attorneys in Orange County ca are experts at helping people like you plan for their final years and beyond. By keeping up-to-date with local, state, and federal law, they can ensure that your estate plan meets legal standards. They can also help advise you on the best way to preserve your estate.
Call today for a free consultation and to discuss the endless options you have to create your proper estate plan.