The Single Life: Why You Need An Estate Plan - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

Just because you're single doesn't mean you don't need an estate plan.

When most people think of estate plans, what usually comes to mind are wealthy families with lineages littered with lots of old money. But you don’t have to be wealthy or married with a house on the hill to have a need for an estate plan.

“Every single person needs an estate plan,” says Valerie Coleman Morris, former CNN business anchor and author of Mind Over Money Matters (Sterling & Ross). If you own a home, car, or anything considered an asset, an estate plan would detail how those things would be allotted and to whom. “The average person has more of value that they care about that they won’t know unless they take an accounting of it,” she says.

Money expert and former CNN anchor Valerie Morris

In particular, if you’re a single parent, an estate plan can detail plans for your children in the case that something happens to you, whether it’s where your children will live or what valuables of your’s will go to whom. If there are no provisions in place, these decisions are left up to the state where you live in accordance with intestate succession.

Here are the basics of setting up an estate plan:

Understand the components: It includes elements such as a will, which details how aspects of your estate will be handled upon your death; a living will, which details what actions should be taken for your health in case of an illness or incapacitation; a power of attorney assignment, which gives someone authorization to act on your behalf in a legal or business matter; and a health-care proxy (or medical power of attorney). Also a trust, which allows you to put conditions on how and when your assets will be distributed, may also be included.

Organize a list of your assets and detail plans for them upon your death: “Assets are more than just dollars and cents… It could be a piece of jewelry that you have that was passed to you or a painting that has value to you,” says Coleman Morris. Other assets include investments, retirement savings, insurance policies, and real estate or other business interests.

Gather and keep on file the proper documentation. These include documents listing power of attorney, health-care proxy, and life insurance policies. Also, some documents, such as your will, must be notarized.

Review your plan on a regular basis. Life changes such as marriage, divorce, income increase or decrease, or birth of a child can change your estate plan needs. You’ll need to adjust accordingly.

Get a professional to help. Estate planning attorneys have knowledge on elements of an estate plan such as taxes, trusts, and beneficiary designations. They can best help to properly guide you through the process.

Further Reading: To Save and Protect

Janell Hazelwood

Janell Hazelwood is associate managing editor at Black Enterprise, managing content across core areas of Money, Career, Small Business and Technology. She is also a featured blogger with My Two Cents, providing insights on branding, millennial career development, employment trends and leadership. She was previously a content producer and copy editor for Black Enterprise magazine, working across several editorial sections. The Hampton University graduate got her start in the newspaper industry, having worked for companies including The New York Times and Scripps Howard News Service. Her works and insights have appeared on The Huffington Post, MadameNoire, E!Online, Brazen Careerist, CBS News, and Arise TV.