Much of the estate planning discourse in New York revolves around married couples and their families. However, if you’re single, estate planning is still important. There are unique considerations, however, that you need to take into account.
Understand intestate laws in New York
Even if you are single, your assets must go somewhere when you die. If you don’t have a will, the State of New York has laws, called intestate succession laws, that dictate who gets your assets. Intestate succession laws vary from state to state, so if you own property in more than one state, you need to understand the intestate succession laws of each state.
In New York State, if you are unmarried and have no children, your parents will inherit your assets. If your parents are deceased, your siblings will inherit your assets. And if you have no surviving siblings, your grandparents will inherit your assets. Only after all of these relatives have passed away will your assets go to the State of New York.
Prioritize health and finances
As a single person, your estate planning should focus more on what would happen to you if you were to be incapacitated. You would need someone you trust to tell the doctors the kind of treatment you prefer or make financial decisions, such as paying your bills or selling your property.
There are three documents that can help you achieve this: a healthcare proxy, a financial power of attorney and a living will. A healthcare proxy is a document that designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. A financial power of attorney gives someone the authority to handle your finances if you are incapacitated. And a living will lays out your end-of-life preferences, such as whether or not you want to be put on life support.
It’s important to note that your estate plans are only as good as your most recent update. So, if you’ve experienced a major life event, such as buying a new property, having a child or getting married, make sure to revisit and make changes to your estate plan accordingly.