Seattle has one of the highest rates of single-person households of any major city in the United States. If you’re among this population, there are some important things about estate planning you need to know.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that estate planning is necessary only if you have a spouse or children. In reality, estate planning is important for everyone. In addition to passing on your assets after death, estate plans are also vital tools for ensuring that you are protected if an injury or illness leaves you incapacitated.
Here are a few ways in which a good estate plan can help single people protect their interests:
Managing your finances
What would happen if you were incapacitated and unable to make financial decisions? Even your closest friends would not have the legal authority to access your accounts and make decisions on your behalf.
A lawyer can help you name a person who can act for you, and can help you locate a trusted professional fiduciary if you’d prefer not to have a loved one shoulder this duty. Your lawyer will work with you to draft a power of attorney that lays out the rights and responsibilities this person will have so that your needs will be met and your assets will be kept safe.
Making medical decisions
Similarly, who would make medical decisions for you if you were unable to communicate your wishes? Your lawyer can help you figure out how you would want to be treated in a situation where you became temporarily or permanently incapacitated. These wishes can then be documented in an advanced directive for physicians (also called a living will). You can also create a durable power of attorney for health care that empowers someone to act on your behalf. As with your finances, this person can be a trusted loved one or a professional.
Protecting your legacy
When people die without a will in place, the state will pass on their property in accordance with Washington law. This is called “intestate succession.” While the law is complicated, the basic rule is that your assets will pass on to your closest living relatives.
Your lawyer can help you ensure that your assets go where you want them to. For example, you might want to leave a valuable piece of art to a friend who loved it, or set aside some money for your nieces and nephews to go to college. Many people also choose to leave gifts for a favorite charity. A well-drafted estate plan will ensure your wishes are carried out, and will protect your loved ones by minimizing disputes over your estate.
Call the attorneys at Northwest Elder Law Group
When it comes to drafting an estate plan, the attorney you choose makes a huge difference. At Northwest Elder Law Group, we understand that these are very personal and emotional decisions. Our attorneys will take the time to listen to you and help you make the decisions that are right for your personal circumstances.
Call us at (206) 937-6102 to schedule an initial consultation and learn more about steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.