Kaplin Stewart

A single person’s guide to estate planning

When most Pennsylvania residents think about the creation of an estate plan, they focus on the eventual distribution of their accumulated wealth. This, however, is not the only function of the estate planning process. For single people, the focus is often on structuring a plan to cover one’s needs in the event of incapacitation. While drafting a will is always a good starting point, many singles go on to designate representatives who can handle various tasks in the event that illness or injury leaves an individual unable to perform those functions.

In terms of making medical decisions, singles should consider designating a medical power of attorney. This person is tasked with directing the course of emergency and continuing medical care in the event of a serious illness or injury. Those decisions can and should be guided by means of a health care directive, which is a document that outline the type of care that the individual desires. Such directives can be as detailed as one likes, and specific types of medical interventions can be discussed within.

When incapacitation occurs, medical care is not the only matter that requires attention. An individual can also designate a representative to handle all of his or her financial affairs if the need should arise. This can help ensure that bills are paid, pets are cared for and that one’s home is properly maintained if a serious medical emergency takes place. The individual chosen for this role should be trustworthy, and should be able and willing to sit down and discuss how financial and personal matters should be handled if necessary.

It is not necessary for Pennsylvania residents to select the same person to fill both of these important roles. In many cases, the person best suited to direct the course of medical care may not be the best fit to manage one’s finances. In addition, if a serious medical event takes place, both of these roles will require a significant amount of time and attention and may be too large a burden for one individual to shoulder. As with so many facets of the estate planning process, incapacitation planning is a highly personalized issue, and one that single people should give serious consideration.

Source: Forbes, “Estate Planning For Single People“, Douglass Rothermich, June 18, 2015