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Idaho Estate Planning Your Will. Who do You Choose When You are Single?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Not long ago, the world viewed the ideal life as one where when you became an adult, you would find your soulmate, get married, have a family, and grow old together surrounded by your spouse and family. For many people this is still their plan. However, some people view the world differently. Some choose to never get married or have children. Alternatively, perhaps someone does want to get married but never finds the right person to make it happen. Additionally, maybe you were married, but now you’re divorced, or perhaps your spouse passed away and you find yourself single again.

Whatever the reason, if you are single, it is still a good idea for you to get your estate planning done. I say it’s a good idea, but maybe I should use stronger terms. It is vitally important that every adult have at least a basic estate plan for themselves, regardless of whether they are single or not.

A basic estate planning includes a last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney, and a living will. Three of the four documents that were just named, are designed to provide specific protections to you while you are alive. It is only your last will and testament that is relied upon after your death.

I found that most people don’t get their estate plan done, regardless of whether they’re married or single, simply because they don’t know how to start. Well you are in for some good news! We make the process as simple and easy as possible to help you get started with your own estate plan. You can easily download our Estate Planning Questionnaire, which is the best way to gather all the information you need to consider when it comes to your own estate planning. Once that is done then we can schedule a free 30-minute consultation where we go over the information in your Questionnaire and answer your specific questions to help you understand the options that exist for you.

The focus of this article is who should you choose to do things for you in your estate planning if you are single. It’s a great question, and it has some equally good answers.

Who Do You Choose as Your Personal Representative?

When it comes to your estate planning the first thing you should think about is who you want to choose or a point as your personal representative. This person is given Authority through the probate process by a court to take care of all the property in the estate, and to do several other things as well. The personal representative makes sure that all of your creditors and debts are paid. Additionally, the personal representative is required to distribute your money, property, and other assets to whoever you list as your beneficiary.

For individuals who are married, the person they nominate as their personal representative is usually their spouse. However, if you are single, there are still a number of people you can consider to nominate as your personal representative. You may have a living parent who could do this for you. Or, alternatively, you may have a sibling that you would trust. If you don’t, there may be other family members you can rely on such as uncles or aunts, or cousins, or nieces or nephews.

If you have no close family, don’t despair. You can also name a close personal friend to do this for you. It could also be a longtime family friend. if you don’t believe any of those options will work for you, you can also turn to the professionals that you use in your life. This could include your accountant, your financial planner, or your attorney. Any of these individuals could be named as a personal representative of your estate.

Unless you have completely isolated yourself from the world, such as being a Hermit living out in the wilderness, everyone has someone that they associate with it one way or another. Because of this, there should be someone in your life that you can nominate as your personal representative even if you are single.

Who Do You Choose as Your Beneficiary?

Similarly, your last will and testament gives you the ability to nominate a beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries who will receive distributions from your estate. Your estate includes all the money, property, and other assets that you own. At your death, these items aren’t just magically transferred to other people. Rather, it’s usually through your will, that you have the ability to gift or distribute these items to whoever you choose.

All the same possible people that are listed above who could be your personal representative, could also be your beneficiary as well. Even if you have no close relatives or friends, there are still other options you can name as your beneficiaries. For example, rather than choosing an individual or a group of people you could choose a charity or a charitable purpose. So long as you are detailed enough that your intent is easy to understand, then that is what will happen to your state.

For example, some individuals choose to donate their estate to a good cause. This could be for educational purposes, or it could be for other reasons. Over the years, I have had clients make donations from their estate to the Humane Society for animal care, to children’s hospitals, to libraries, to universities, to high schools and so forth. The sky’s the limit on who you appoint as your beneficiary.

What if You Don’t Choose Anyone? (No Written Will.)

Now, we get to a question that I am often asked, which is “What happens if I don’t choose anyone because I don’t have a written will?” When there is no written will, then the laws of intestacy apply.

Intestacy is a fancy legal word that simply means a person died without a will. When this happens, the state where the person resided when they died, will apply its intestate statutes to the estate. The intestate statutes provide an itemized list of priorities for individuals both to be named as a personal representative and as a beneficiary of the estate. In other words, the statutes will decide who will be in charge of your estate and who will receive your money, property, and other assets after you die.

When this happens, there is no room for anyone to consider what it is you wanted. In other words, even if you told everyone before you died that you wanted your money to go to a certain person or to a certain charity, your wishes will not happen. Unless your wishes are actually written down in some form that constitutes a valid will, none of what you want to happen will actually happen. In other words, you lose control over your entire estate when you die.

So how do you keep control of your estate, even when you are single? You get your estate plan done through a qualified estate planning attorney. By doing this, you are assured that your plan will be carried out and your wishes will be completed.

If you have questions or concerns about your own estate plan, we encourage you to contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation where we can answer your questions and help you determine what will work best for your circumstances. We have assisted numerous clients in completing their own estate plans, and we are confident we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho estate planning problems.

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