Many people don’t think about estate planning until there is a spouse and children. While this is understandable, the need for estate planning is even greater for the unmarried.
Estate planning lets you designate someone else to manage your affairs in case of injury, disability or death and put your wishes in writing. If you’re married and don’t have an estate plan, Maryland law often lets the spouse make decisions on behalf of the other spouse.
If you’re single and an unexpected accident happens, it is often very difficult and costly to have someone else manage your affairs on your behalf. Moreover, it is often more difficult to figure out what a single person would have wanted.
Example: Eric is a young doctor living in Baltimore. An accident leaves him unconscious for several months. His brother, Ken, lives in Hagerstown and is forced to go to court and be appointed guardian of Eric’s property so that he can pay his bills. Ken is required to pay a bond and takes money our of Eric’s bank account to pay for it. Eric would have preferred his close friend, Susan, to have this authority because she lives closer and is more trustworthy.
For unmarried couples, the dangers of postponing estate planning can be even more dramatic.
Example: Alex and Jamie have been in a loving, committed relationship for 14 years and lived together for over 10 years. Neither bothered to create a will. When Alex passes away unexpectedly, Jamie expects to inherit Alex’s belongings and the home they lived in together. Instead, Alex’s property will go to Alex’s parents, who never approved of Jamie.
If you’re single and have children, it is crucial to make sure your children are provided for the way you want them to be. Maryland law will assume the other parent will take control of minor children. If the other parent isn’t around or isn’t the best choice, you should create a will to designate a personal guardian for your minor children. You can also designate someone to manage the personal property of your child’s inheritance, instead of a court-supervised guardianship or the child owning the property outright.
If you’re unmarried, whether you are in a relationship or not, you should take these steps:
- Create a will: You can designate who you want to inherit your property and name who you want to be in charge of wrapping up your affairs.
- Create a Power of Attorney: You can name someone you trust to manage your financial affairs if you are unable to manage them yourself.
- Update beneficiary designations: Retirement plans and life insurance policies will go to the person you have designated despite whatever is in your will.
- Create an Advance Directive: An advance directive should include a Health Care Power of Attorney that designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf and a Living Will that lets you put down your wishes for end of life scenarios.
It is unfortunate, but tragedy can strike even the young. The tragedy can be compounded when loved ones don’t know how to proceed or lack the authority to do so. Talk to an experienced estate planning lawyer in Maryland to avoid these problems.
Montefusco Estate Planning, LLC is an estate planning law firm in Frederick, MD. If you are interested in our services, contact us today. This information is written for the context of Maryland estate planning but is not legal advice for anyone. For more information, read our disclaimer.