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Estate Planning For The Single Person

Posted by Aubrey Carew Sizer | Feb 07, 2022

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP),an estimated 60 percent of Americans do not have a Last Will and Testament (will) and other estate planning documents. Many people mistakenly believe that estate planning is only for married couples. However, single individuals can also benefit from creating a comprehensive estate plan. Unlike married individuals, singles do not have a spouse to transfer their money and property to in the event of their death. Therefore, estate planning for the single person requires special considerations. Consider contacting an experienced estate planning attorney at The Law Office of Aubrey Carew Sizer PLLC if you are a single person who needs help with creating an estate plan. Call (571) 403-2619 to schedule a case evaluation.

Estate Planning for the Single Person: Everything You Need to Know

Creating an estate plan for singles requires special considerations. A single person will need to choose someone they trust to make medical and financial decisions on their behalf in the event of their incapacity. As singles may not have many beneficiaries to choose from if they do not have children, it can be challenging to determine what should happen to their assets upon their death.

Estate planning for single individuals is different from estate planning for married individuals. Since there is no spouse to take over their assets and property, a single person needs to think carefully when deciding who should manage their assets and affairs when they are gone.

One of the most effective ways to protect your assets and make sure that your wishes are carried out when you pass away is to create a last will and testament (will) or trust. You might want to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney before finalizing your will or trust to make sure that the documents meet your goals and needs.

There are three things that single individuals need to consider when creating a will or trust:

  1. Beneficiaries. The first thing you should do is check the beneficiary designations within the last will and testament and trust. The individuals you name as beneficiaries on your financial accounts will inherit the benefits no matter what the will says. You may want to update the designations to ensure that your assets pass to the right persons.
  2. Estate taxes. Married people typically hold the title to real estate jointly, unlike single individuals, meaning that the surviving spouse inherits the property without having to pay any estate tax following their loved one's death. If you are a single person, however, your beneficiary may be required to pay estate taxes if the value of the estate exceeds a certain threshold. Setting up a trust may help avoid or reduce estate taxes.
  3. A medical power of attorney. A medical power of attorney is used to designate a person who would be in charge of making healthcare decisions on your behalf when you no longer have the capacity to do so. Without a spouse to make healthcare decisions in the event of incapacity, singles may designate a trusted family member or close friend.

As you can see, estate planning for the single person can be a bit challenging and legally complex. However, a skilled estate planning attorney at The Law Office of Aubrey Carew Sizer PLLC can help you understand the nuances of creating an estate plan as an unmarried individual with or without children.

Consider Creating a Living Will and Living Trust

Many single individuals consider creating a living will and living trust to protect their assets and wishes.

  • A living will allows you to specify your wishes regarding end-of-life care if you are no longer capable of communicating or making decisions on your own. It is important to choose a person you trust to make critical healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity.
  • A living trust can help avoid the expensive and time-consuming probate. When you set up a living trust, you place your assets into the trust and choose a trustee to transfer those assets to your beneficiaries following your death.

Consider speaking with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney at The Law Office of Aubrey Carew Sizer PLLC to discuss your particular situation and determine if you can benefit from creating a living will and living trust.

What Happens When a Single Person Dies Intestate?

Dying intestate means passing away without a last will and testament. If you do not have a will, you should understand what may happen to your assets and property if you die.

Under the intestate succession laws in Virginia, Code of Virginia § 64.2-200, if a deceased person leaves behind a spouse and children, one third of their estate will pass to the surviving spouse. The remaining two thirds of the assets will be distributed to the children. If the decedent dies without children, all assets will pass to the surviving spouse.

But what if there is no spouse or children? When a single person dies intestate, their assets will be distributed to other beneficiaries in this order:

  • Surviving parents
  • Siblings (or nieces/nephews if there are no siblings)
  • Grandparents (or aunts/uncles if grandparents are deceased)
  • Children of the deceased spouse, if any
  • Relatives of the deceased spouse, if any
  • Virginia or another state of legal residence

Depending on your family situation, you may want to pass the assets in your estate to:

  • Your intimate or domestic partner
  • Your close friend
  • A charity
  • A sibling or niece/nephew
  • A business partner
  • An educational institution or scholarship

Creating an estate plan is even more critical if you are single than if you are married. Estate planning for the single person requires more complex planning to ensure that final wishes are carried out and assets pass to the right person(s).

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney in Virginia

Estate planning for singles can be complicated and confusing. During the estate planning process, you will make a number of decisions to protect your assets and ensure that your wishes are respected when you can no longer care for yourself.

For this reason, you might want to consider contacting our skilled estate planning attorney at The Law Office of Aubrey Carew Sizer PLLC to assist you with creating a comprehensive estate plan. Our Virginia-based attorney handles estate planning for single persons and married couples. To discuss your unique case, call (571) 403-2619.

About the Author

Aubrey Carew Sizer

Aubrey Carew Sizer, Esquire, is the Principal Attorney of The Law Office of Aubrey Carew Sizer PLLC, a Northern Virginia law firm providing representation for Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning, Long-Term Care Planning, Guardianship and Conservatorship, Special Needs Planning for the Disabled, and Probate, Estate and Trust Administration.


The Law Office of Aubrey Carew Sizer PLLC provides customized and affordable estate planning (including wills, living trusts, powers of attorney, and advance medical directives); elder law services (including long-term care planning, special needs planning for the disabled, and guardianships and conservatorships); probate, estate and trust administration (including advising executors and administrators of estates about post-mortem planning and the local probate process in Virginia), as well as general aging and disability advice in Northern Virginia, including but not limited to Arlington, Alexandria, Ashburn, Bristow, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Gainesville, Fairfax, Falls Church, Haymarket, Herndon, Leesburg, Manassas, Manassas Park, Reston, Springfield, Sterling, and throughout Loudoun, Prince William, and Fairfax counties.