You’ve heard me time and time again stress the importance of planning.  It
doesn’t matter the size of your estate, whether you’re single or married, you
have to plan. You have to plan for estate taxes, who your guardians and
healthcare agents are going to be and you have to pass-on your legacy.

However, for those of us that are single (including myself), the issues become
greatly exacerbated and here’s why.

If you’re single, there is no spouse who can take over as the legal guardian
for your kids or make health care decisions for you.

Legally naming guardians is critical in order to ensure that your kids will
be raised by the individual you want if you are not here to raise
them.   You must name guardians both for the long term and for the
immediate short term.  The short term guardians are called “first
responders,” and these are individuals who could get there on a moment’s
notice (about 20 minutes away).  Someone who will hug your kids, watch and
be responsible for your kids until the long terms guardians can be
located.  Without first responders, there isn’t anyone close by who has
legal authority to stay with your kids, and the police will have no choice but
to call in child protective services, and your “babies” will be
whisked away.  This is extremely frightening for them.

If you’re single, it’s even more important to legally name both short term
and long term guardians, because, if something happens to you – or you’re out
of town when tragedy occurs, your spouse isn’t going to be there.

For health care decisions, your spouse is usually a natural choice and would
have authority to make health care decisions if you’re unable.  But it’s
still important to have a health care directive to ensure that your wishes are
known and, what many in our field call, “The Terri Schiavo situation”
doesn’t arise where Mom and spouse fight over a life support issue.  When
you’re single, there isn’t any natural person to make those decisions, and it’s
even more important to designate who can make those decisions for you.
Your children could be too young (like mine), so you must designate if you want
your parent, sibling, cousin, in-law, aunt or uncle to make those decisions.

With the proper planning in a trust, married couples are able to use both
exemptions (each spouse has a 2 million dollar estate tax exemption) and
currently avoid paying tax on up to 4 million.  Individuals, however, only
have their one exemption and will pay tax at 45% (at the highest bracket) for
every dollar over 2 million.

When calculating your estate, don’t forget that your estate include death
benefits on life insurance.  Therefore, individuals whose estate exceeds
or will exceed the exemption must have the foresight to meet with a Personal
Family Lawyer, who is an expert in reducing these burdensome estate taxes.

Passing on ones legacy is an important and most often overlooked element of
a “traditional” estate plan.  This is your intellectual, human
and spiritual wealth.  Everyone should do this, and our clients, are
offered the opportunity to do this for free.  When you’re single, it is
much harder to resurrect your legacy–where you grew up, where your parents and
grandparents came from, what lessons they taught you, where you went to school,
did you go to the prom-when your spouse is gone.

Call us.  Let us discuss with you what your options are – as a single
person or as a married couple.  If you will call before September 30, I
will offer a free Family Wealth Planning Session that is normally a $750
charge.