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Where will a single person's assets go after death?

Single people in Boston may not think that they need an estate plan since they are not married and/or do not have children. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Any adult who has assets typically benefits from at least a basic estate plan in order to avoid dying intestate, which means that state law would dictate how the estate would be distributed. Dying without at least a will may make it unnecessarily challenging for the family members left behind.

A will dictates who inherits certain assets, who will become guardian of any children of minor age and who will be appointed as executor of the estate. The executor is the person who handles the administration of a person's estate after death -- paying bills, distributing assets and taking care of any other tasks that require attention. Choosing the person to perform these duties is potentially the most important decision to be made since an individual needs to be sure that the person is trustworthy and is willing to serve in this capacity. Without a will, the court appoints an administrator of the estate, as opposed to appointing an executor, and that person may not be who the decedent would have picked. Depending on a Boston resident's wishes, other estate-planning documents may be needed.

The next task is to determine to whom an individual wants to leave his or her assets. There are certain assets that will pass by operation of law. Retirement accounts and life insurance policies are the most common. The person or persons listed on the beneficiary designation forms for these accounts will dictate where the proceeds of the accounts go regardless of what the will might say. Therefore, it is important for these forms to be reviewed to be sure that they still reflect the individual's wishes.

Most people have an idea of whom they would like to give their assets to upon death. Single people often want to provide for their loved ones, just as married people do. However, without an estate plan, there is little to no guarantee that a particular item will end up with the "right" person.

Source: MarketWatch, "Estate planning for single people", Douglas Rothermich, July 25, 2015

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