Q&A: Single people don't really need wills, right?
QUESTION: Single people don't need wills, right?
ANSWER: It depends on what you want to happen to your property when you die AND what types of property you own at your death.
Non-probate assets (things like life insurance policies, retirement accounts, some types of real estate, and a few other things - dive deeper into this here) get distributed at your death based on beneficiary designations, ownership titles, etc. And that happens with or without a will.
But when you die without a will, the rest of your stuff (and depending on what you have, it could be a little or a lot) is called your probate estate and that's subject to the control of your state's intestacy laws. "Intestacy" is the legal term for dying without a will. Each state has a set of these (check out North Carolina's here) and they function as an estate plan for people without an estate plan.
So - problem solved, right? Sure, if:
You understand and agree with the mandatory distributions (both who they go to and how much) set up by the Intestacy laws;
Are okay with the fact that the state lawmakers make (and change) these without your input;
Feel comfortable leaving the control of the process and timeline in the hands of your local county estates/probate court; and
It's okay that your loved ones will have no legal way to change or challenge any of this.
Need to know more before you can decide? Here's a nutshell/simplified overview of North Carolina's intestacy laws if you're single:
If you have children: they will get your entire probate estate. If they are not yet adults, the assets will be kept under the care/control of a financial guardian until they reach age 18. And the most likely person to get appointed as the financial guardian is generally the child(ren)'s other parent.
If you don't have children: it will go to your parents.
If your parents have already died, it will go to your siblings (or if they've already died, then to their children).
If you don't have any siblings (or they have already died and had no surviving children), it will go to your grandparents.
If your grandparents have already died, your aunts and uncles are next in line, followed by your cousins.
This goes on for awhile, but in the end, if there are simply no relatives to inherit from you - the State of North Carolina will get it.
If you're single and don't have a will and aren't thrilled with this, it's time to consult with an estate planning attorney. My Estate Plan Initial Consultation appointments are perfect for this - one time, no (continuing) obligation, get the info you need and decide for yourself - contact me for details.
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Original photo credit goes Simon Launay on Unsplash.