singe estateMost single people own assets in their names individually and may also own some assets as a joint tenant with right of survivorship. Other assets, such as life insurance or retirement assets, will be distributed at death according to the terms of their beneficiary designations.

How these varying assets are titled and how the beneficiary designations are prepared will directly impact who will get control of the assets and how they’ll be distributed at the individual’s death.

If an individual dies without a will (known as intestate), possessions are distributed according to the default laws of his or her state. Under these state laws, a married individual’s assets typically go to their spouse or children. For a single person, however, the default under state law usually provides that assets are passed on to their closest relatives (e.g. children, parents, siblings). If there are no relatives alive, assets may go to the state.

To avoid having the state decide the fate of your assets, it is imperative that you put an estate plan to ensure your wishes are carried out:

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