More on…Estate Planning

I am always amazed at how often I hear someone say that they do not think they need a will because they are either not married or do not have children. In fact, that is all the more reason to have an estate plan! I recently came across a statistic that is alarming: 50% of Americans with children do not have a will, and 41% of baby boomers do not have a will. I can’t speak to the accuracy of these statistics, but it certainly brings the issue to the forefront. These people must not be reading my articles. Otherwise, they would know and understand that while it is difficult to deal with the inevitability of death, we all need to plan for the future, regardless of our marital status. The costs are always greater to our estate and our loved ones if we do not.

A single person dying without a will means that the person’s assets will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. Massachusetts recently updated its intestacy laws under the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC) which, after several delays, became effective on March 31, 2012. According to the MUPC, if you are single and die without a will, your assets will pass to your children, followed by your parents, and siblings, according to percentages prescribed by the law, even if you wanted them to go to a partner, friend or charity. Making an estate plan is even more critical if you are not married but have children or are in a committed relationship, because under the MUPC, a surviving partner does not receive the same protections under the law as a married couple and could be left completely un-provided-for in the event of your death.

Furthermore, if you are single and become incapacitated without a Health Care Proxy or Durable Power of Attorney in place, a court will appoint someone to make medical and financial decisions for you, rather than someone of your choosing, and whom you trust, making these important decisions on your behalf. The same fate applies to same-sex couples who are not legally married or reside in a state where same-sex marriages are not recognized. Unlike married couples, an unmarried partner or friend cannot make medical or financial decisions on your behalf without signed authorization.

Our laws pertaining to estates clearly favor married couples, but single and unmarried couples who plan for their future have nothing to worry about.

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