Although most people realize the importance of creating a comprehensive estate plan, many of them are under the impression that they don’t really need one. This may be because they don’t have a particularly large estate or because they are single and without children. The truth is that everyone can benefit from an estate plan. If you have yet to create an estate plan because you are single and feel you don’t really need one you should reconsider that way of thinking. A better understanding of what an estate plan can do for you, and what happens to your estate in the absence of an estate plan, may convince you to finally sit down and create a plan.
While it may be true that the larger your estate the greater the need for estate planning, that doesn’t mean an estate plan isn’t needed for smaller estates. You may have additional reasons to create an estate plan when you are married with children, but you still need one as a single individual without children. If you die without executing at least a Last Will and Testament prior to your death you are said to have died “intestate”. When that happens, the Illinois intestate succession laws determine how your estate assets are handled after your death. If you are not married and have no children, your parents and/or siblings will inherit all of your estate assets. This may, or may not, be the way you would have handled the gifting of your estate assets; however, by not creating an estate plan you give up the right to decide what happens to your assets. Friends, distant relatives such as a niece or nephew, and charities that are close to your heart may receive nothing from your estate if you die intestate.
There are also reasons to create an estate plan aside from retaining control over how your estate is divided when you die. Issues that may arise while you are still alive are also covered in a comprehensive estate plan. Who do you want to control your assets if you become incapacitated? Who do you want to make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapacitated? Your estate plan can plan for incapacity and designate your agent(s) so you know who will take over should incapacity strike. You may also want to plan for long-term care and include Medicaid planning in your estate plan to ensure you are covered during your golden years.
As you should be able to see, estate planning is not only for the wealthy or even only for those who are married with children. As a single individual with a modest estate you still need an estate plan.
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