Do you think estate planning is just for couples and families? Do you think you don't need a Will or a Power of Attorney because you aren't married and don't have children? Think again.
Having the proper documents in place is almost more essential for a single person than a married one. Consider this: is anyone else listed on your bank accounts with you? What about your house or condo that you own? Does your family know and respect your wishes regarding health care and end of life decisions?
Durable Power of Attorney
If something happened to you and your family or close friends needed access to your accounts to manage your affairs, they would have to go to court to obtain a guardianship over you - a timely, expensive and public process. By executing a durable power of attorney, however, you are able to choose the person you want to handle things for you, and they can immediately begin to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated, without needing the Court's permission.
Health Care Proxy
Have you talked to your family about your wishes regarding health care decisions and end of life care? Maybe you have talked about this with a close friend or significant other and would feel more comfortable having them make those decisions for you if you are unable. Unless you've signed a health care proxy appointing the person of your choice, they won't be able to make those decisions for you in the event of an emergency. The doctors may look to your family for input, but if you aren't close to your family or if your family is not in agreement with your wishes, it could lead to conflict and or result in decisions that you would not have made for yourself. Take the time to decide who you want to appoint, and sign a health care proxy naming that person.
Even if you are unmarried, and don't have children, you probably still need a Will. There is a saying: "If you don't have an estate plan, the State has one for you." If you own real estate, or have investments or savings, and you don't have a will to specify how you want them to be distributed upon your death - they will be distributed according to the intestacy statute in Massachusetts. This means they will be distributed to your next of kin: your parents, or if they are no longer living, then to your siblings, and on down the line. But what if you want things to be distributed differently? For instance, you have a disabled sibling and receiving an inheritance might disqualify them for certain essential services they have been receiving, or you have a favorite niece and you'd like your property to be put into a trust for her benefit. By making a Will, you get to decide to whom and how your property is distributed. After all, it's your stuff and you worked hard to earn it, shouldn't you be the one to decide where it goes?