Estate Planning for Singles

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Estate Planning for Singles

by | Mar 16, 2015

Beth is in her 60s and never married. She ran a successful consulting business for 20 years and sold it with enough assets and investments to comfortably retire. A lifelong patron of the arts, for years she volunteered and worked tirelessly to raise funds for the local non-profit theatre. Though Beth never had children of her own, she has a close friend with whom she’s been actively involved in raising the friend’s two children.
Because Beth doesn’t have any children or siblings and her parents have long passed, she doesn’t think she needs to bother with a will. Unfortunately, if she passes away without one, all of her assets could go to the state or at best, to some distant relative she may not even know. With advanced planning, singles can avoid the state court appointing a distant relative he or she may dislike or never have met to make decisions on their behalf. 
​Ironically, estate planning – or the lack thereof – is generally easier for married couples or single people with children. That’s because without a will their estate will generally pass directly to their spouse or children upon their death. Currently, about half of the U.S. population over the age of 15 – 50 is single, whether divorced, widowed or never married. What’s interesting is that for some singles, the very nature of their solo lifestyle can make them more predisposed to develop close non-familial relationships with people and organizations with whom they spend time. But without a will and other estate planning provisions, single folks do not have a way to leave their lifelong assets to those they may care for the most.
Undoubtedly, it is paramount that singles intentionally address their plans for their estate after they pass away. 
Additional items to address include: 

  • If divorced, it’s important to make sure all beneficiary designations are up to date. Otherwise, be aware that an ex-spouse named as the beneficiary of the client’s IRA, 401(k) and/or life insurance overrides designations in a will or trust.
  • For wealthy single investors, bear in mind that the federal estate tax exemption amount is lower for singles than for married people, so a special trust might be needed.
  • It also may be worthwhile to consider gifting assets to friends or relatives during your lifetime to lower the value of your estate.

Many times we run into new clients who established a trust or a will five, ten or even 15 years ago without dusting it off to see if it’s still current. If it has not been updated in the last five years, make sure it’s reviewed by a qualified estate attorney to verify it’s in compliance with current estate transfer and tax laws. For example, look to see who’s named as a successor trustee after you’re no longer able to serve. Is the trust funded properly? The answers might surprise you.

​Please contact us to get the ball rolling, we can assist with initially discussing your wealth transfer goals and help come up with ideas on the best way to achieve them.

Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.


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