Estero Elder Law

What Unmarried Seniors Need to Know About Estate Planning

Most people don’t like to think about what will happen when their parents and grandparents pass away. For many families, the time to grieve will also be a time to take on new roles: one will be tasked with distributing property, many will become beneficiaries, and some may even be entrusted to care for children.

But for unmarried seniors, these roles may fall to relatives they don’t trust—or have never even met.

What Unmarried Florida Residents Are Risking Without an Estate Plan

A recent Wall Street Journal article pointed out that over half of women and a quarter of men over age 65 were unmarried, amounting to an estimated to 18 million divorced, widowed, or never-married seniors. While estate planning is important for all people, there are a few special considerations that should inspire single seniors to create their wills:

  • Power of decision. Those who have children or a living spouse may be relying on their families to make decisions for them if they are incapacitated. However, if a single property owner has not appointed someone to take over his medical and financial affairs, these responsibilities could potentially fall on any one of his relations. If you are single senior who falls into a coma or suffers from dementia, all of your assets (as well as plans for your future medical care) could go to any person appointed by the state without your approval.
  • Account beneficiary. While people may be required to name beneficiaries on their retirement accounts and life insurance policies, the person who inherits the amount in your bank accounts and stock investments may not be as clear-cut (and if you did not amend the beneficiary after your divorce, an ex-spouse will inherit the amount).
  • Inheritances. The law will generally favor a spouse if a married person dies without a will. For unmarried people, assets generally pass to your children, then to your parents, then siblings, and finally to distant relatives. If you have no living family (and you have not declared your wishes in a will), your assets will then become property of the state.

For this reason, it is important to create an estate plan as early as possible. At the very least, property holders should have a will that specifically states who is authorized to make your medical decisions, how your assets are to be distributed after your death, and who should act as the executor of your will. You should review this document every five to ten years to make sure your choices have not changed.

If you need help amending or creating a will, I can help!