Two things happened last week: I overheard a friend say that since his wife passed away, he’s not entirely sure as to what to do now if he becomes disabled. “Who am I going to call”, he asked. They never had children because they both had demanding careers and while they never had regrets, it’s possible they didn’t consider the fact that one would outlive the other, leaving the survivor with few familial options. The next thing I learned was that for the first time in U.S. history, there are more people who are single than married. Incredible, but it’s true. There are now 124.6 million singles versus 123.6 million married Americans (age 16 and older) as of 2014. That’s more than half – which means, half of our friends and loved ones are single from a statistical perspective.
Estate Planning for the Single
So, now what? Frankly, the numbers were surprising, partly because this was the kind of information you’d think would be shouted from the rooftops. Where are the sociologists warning us of the long term repercussions (because there are plenty)? While we can’t answer for them, we can, from the perspective of estate planning, provide a bit of insight.
We all know that, at a minimum, everyone needs a will, a power of attorney and the ever-important health care directive. Otherwise, we’re leaving entirely too much of our fate in the hands of others.
For single people, disability and long-term care are especially important because there is no husband or wife or partner who is right next to us. The one person who would handle the insurance, contributing to the household and ensuring doctors’ appointments are kept is not there. That’s not to say that we don’t have others who love us and would never allow us to miss a doctor’s appointment, but the sense of knowing is gone. The sense of “I don’t have to worry so much about this” is gone. It becomes more of a “I need to see if Jane is available next week”.
Why We’re Single Loses Importance
Married or coupled people have a spouse who can make medical decisions on their behalf, but for single folks, there’s an additional step of planning for medical contingencies. Those who are single have to stay a step ahead and ensure those elements are always in place because if they become incapacitated, there’s nowhere to turn. A doctor, for example, won’t know who to look for to discuss potential medical scenarios.
Singles have to consider who will inherit their assets when die; or, alternatively, allow the laws of the state to prevail. That realization alone is enough to make a living will with advance directives a good idea.
The reasons why we’re single aren’t as important as the reasons for covering these important legal bases –and sooner rather than later. To learn more about these and other estate planning documents, contact Unsworth Law today. We stand ready to help you put those protective mechanisms in place.