Kaplin Stewart

Estate planning for those who are unmarried

When considering estate planning, many Pennsylvania residents focus on creating a system to handle the distribution of their accumulated assets to one’s chosen heirs. However, this focus is not universal, as there are many individuals who are unmarried and have no children. For these individuals, estate planning needs take a different form, and they often center on making sure that one’s end-of-life needs are taken care of.

This involves the creation of a set of documents that assign various responsibilities to carefully selected individuals. Among these is an advance health care directive, which clearly outlines the type of medical treatment that an individual wants to undergo in the event of a serious illness or injury. These planning tools can be general, such as stating that one does not wish for excessive lifesaving methods to be employed if there is no chance of extending a high quality of life. These directives can also be incredibly detailed, allowing individuals to list specific treatments to which they do not want to be subjected.

Another type of directive is the designation of a health care power of attorney. This is a document that lists the name(s) of the person(s) tasked with making one’s health care decision in the event that an individual becomes incapacitated. The same level of responsibility can be assigned to financial matters through the use of a general power of attorney.

Single Pennsylvania residents should consider how to structure a simple estate planning package that meets their unique needs. End-of-life planning is not only for those who will leave behind a spouse or children. Creating a comprehensive plan is also a powerful means of ensuring that each of us has the care and attention needed during a serious medical emergency, whether that comes at the end of life or far earlier.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Estate-Planning Essentials for Single People“, Carolyn T. Geer, Dec. 7, 2014