I’m Single, Should I Have a Will?



Most people believe that only families need a will, but this is far from true. It is equally important for single people to have a will. When a person dies without leaving a will, it is said that they died intestate. Dying intestate means that your property will be distributed according to the law and not your wishes.

In New York, the Estates Powers & Trusts Law §4-1.1 will determine how property is distributed amongst the decedent’s living relatives. This distribution depends on the relationship of the family members to the decedent at the time of passing. The relatives who are entitled to a share of the decedent’s estate when there is no will are called “distributees.”

The rules may not always divide up assets in a manner that you would agree with. For example, if you are single with no kids, and your parents have already passed, but you have a brother, all of your assets would be distributed to your brother upon your death. What if you do not like your brother? What if you wanted to donate some of your assets to charity? What if your loving animal survives you and your brother is not an animal person? All of these questions could have been answered by making a will.

A main benefit of making a will is choosing who inherits your property. In New York, if you do not have a will your property will pass to your closest relatives, who are usually parents, children, or siblings. If none of those people are living at the time, then your property will pass to more distant relatives, such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. Additionally, if upon your death, you have no living family, your property will go to New York State. This means that your significant other, friends, and charities get nothing. If execute your will in advance of your death, you will be able to override these default rules and decide who gets your property.

Besides distributing your property, a will allows you to designate a guardian for your children. A guardian is the person who will raise your minor children upon your death. The guardian may also be responsible for managing your children’s assets. You can designate the same person to be responsible for custody and financial matters, or you can choose two different guardians. Making a will does not guarantee that your guardian will be chosen, especially if your child has another legal parent, but the court will take the preferences outlined in your will seriously.

A will is also essential for pet owners. Although many of us feel that our pets are family, the law usually treats pets as property. This means that your pet will be given to a relative based on the default rules if you die intestate. If you have no living family, your pet may be given to a shelter. Making a will allows you to name a person to care for your beloved pet, as well as providing instructions on how you want them cared for after you are gone.

Another benefit of making a will is that it will reduce stress for your loved ones. The passing of a loved one is an emotionally difficult and stressful time. Having a will which clearly outlines your wishes on the distribution of your assets will reduce confusion and family disagreements.

Overall, the benefits of a will for a single person are significant. A Wills, Trusts, and Estates attorney can make the process relatively straightforward, and will provide you with peace of mind that your assets will be distributed per your wishes.

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