By Dana M. Heyde
While most adults don’t take estate planning as seriously as they should, if you are single with no
children, you might think that there’s really no need for you to worry about creating an estate
plan. But this is a huge mistake. In fact, it can be even more important to have an estate plan if
you are single and don’t have children.
This is true whether you are wealthy or have very limited assets. Without proper estate planning,
you are not only jeopardizing your wealth and assets, but you put your life at risk too. That
doesn’t even mention the potential conflict, mess, and expense you’re leaving for your surviving
family and friends to deal with when something unexpected happens to you.
With this in mind, if you’re unmarried without children, consider these three inconvenient truths
before you decide to forego estate planning.
1. Someone Will Have to Handle Your Stuff
Whether you’re rich, poor, or somewhere in between, in the event of your death, everything you
own will need to be located, managed, and passed on to someone, which can be a massive
In fact, following a loved one’s death, American families spend an average of 500 hours and
over $12,000 over the course of an estimated 2 years if probate is required, to finalize the
person’s affairs and settle their estate, according to the first annual Cost Of Dying report released
by tech startup Empathy in partnership with Goldman Sachs.
On top of the logistical complications involved with finalizing your affairs, without a clear estate
plan your assets will go through the court process of probate, where a judge and state law will
decide who gets everything you own. In the event no family steps forward, your assets will
become property of the state.
Why give the state everything you worked to build? Even if you have little financial wealth, you
undoubtedly own a few sentimental items, maybe even including pets, that you’d like to pass to a
close friend or favorite charity.
Although it is rare for someone to die without any family members stepping forward, it is far
more likely that some relative you haven’t spoken with in years will come forward to stake a
claim. Without a will or trust, state intestacy laws establish which family member has the priority
inheritance. If you’re unmarried with no children, this hierarchy typically puts parents first, then
siblings, then more distant relatives like nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and cousins.
Depending on your family, this could have a potentially troubling outcome. For instance, what if
your closest living relative is your estranged brother with serious addiction issues? Or what if
your assets are passed on to a niece with poor money-management skills, who is likely to
squander her inheritance?
If your estate contains significant wealth and assets, this could lead to a costly and contentious
court battle, with all of your relatives hiring expensive lawyers to fight over your estate. In the
end, this could tear your family apart all because you didn’t think you needed an estate plan.
Cottle Keen Lopiccolo & Heyde, LLP, our attorneys work with you to create an estate plan
that ensures that your assets will pass to the proper people, while avoiding both unnecessary
court proceedings and family conflict.
2. Someone Will Have Power Over Your Healthcare
Estate planning isn’t just about passing on your assets when you die. In fact, some of the most
critical aspects of estate planning have nothing to do with your money at all, but are aimed at
protecting you while you’re still alive.
Proactive planning allows you to name the person you want to make healthcare decisions for you
in the event you are incapacitated and unable to make such decisions yourself. This is done using
an estate planning tool known as a medical power of attorney.
For example, if you’re incapacitated due to a serious accident or illness and unable to give
doctors permission to perform a potentially risky medical treatment, it would be left up to a
judge to decide who gets to make that decision on your behalf.
If you have a romantic partner but aren’t married and haven’t granted them medical power of
attorney, the court will likely have a family member, not your partner, make those decisions.
Depending on your family, that person may make decisions contrary to what you or your partner
And if you don’t want an estranged sibling to inherit your assets, you probably don’t want them
to have the power to make life-and-death decisions about your medical care, either. But that is
exactly what could happen if you don’t put a plan in place.
Your family members who have priority to make decisions for you could keep your dearest
friends away from your bedside in the event of your hospitalization. Or family members who
don’t share your values about medical care could make decisions about how you’ll be cared for.
To address these issues, you need to implement an estate planning tool that provides specific
guidelines detailing exactly how you want your medical care to be managed during your
incapacity, including critical end-of-life decisions. This is done using an estate planning vehicle
known as a living will.
If you are single with no kids, you need to create an estate plan in order to name healthcare
decisions-makers for yourself and provide instructions on how you want those decisions made
should you ever become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions yourself.
3. Someone Will Get Power Over Your Finances
If you become incapacitated and haven’t legally named someone to handle your finances while
you’re unable to do so, the court will pick someone for you. The way to avoid this is by granting
someone you trust durable financial power of attorney.
A durable financial power of attorney is an estate planning vehicle that gives the person you
choose the immediate authority to manage your financial, legal, and business affairs if you’re
incapacitated. This agent will have a broad range of powers to handle things like paying your
bills and taxes, running your business, collecting your Social Security benefits, selling your
home, as well as managing your banking and investment accounts.
Without a signed durable financial power of attorney, your family and friends will have to go to
court to get access to your finances, which not only takes time, but it could lead to the
mismanagement, and even the loss, of your assets should the court grant this authority to the
What’s more, the person you name doesn’t have to be a lawyer or financial professional; it can
be anybody you choose, including both family and friends. The most important aspect of your
choice is selecting someone who’s imminently trustworthy, since they will have nearly complete
control over your finances while you remain incapacitated. When you are a client of Cottle Keen
Lopiccolo & Heyde, LLP, your agent will have access to our team as their trusted counsel should
they need guidance or help.
Don’t Leave So Much At Risk
Given these potential risks and costs for yourself and those you care about, no one can afford to
put off preparing an estate plan. Identifying the right estate planning tools is easy to do, and it
begins with a Family Wealth Planning Session. During this session, we help you consider
everything you own and everyone you love, and guide you to make informed, educated, and
empowered choices for yourself and your loved ones.
Don’t put your life and assets at risk, or leave a mess for the people you love. Contact Cottle
Keen Lopiccolo & Heyde, LLP to get your estate planning handled today.
At Cottle Keen Lopiccolo & Heyde, LLP we don’t just create an estaste plan, we create a wealth
legacy. We ensure you have the information to make informed and empowered decisions about
life and death for yourself and the people you love. Our Family Wealth Planning Sessions are
designed specifically for you to enable you make the best choices possible. You can begin by
contacting our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session. Mention this article
to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.