Single person estates

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) latest data showed that 51% of people in England and Wales are single — half the population.*

In reality, as we know in will writing circles, the definition of “single” is people who are not married.

Therefore this demographic will include cohabiting couples, single parents, those divorced or widowed — which means there are significant groups of society that may not be aware of the consequences of not having a will in place. More thought needs to be dedicated into life planning when there is no spouse to bequeath their estate, or even no next of kin at all.

This is the first time that figures have shown that there are more “single” people than not, indicating a trend. It is consequently more important than ever for will writers to be handling such cases with great care, as with any client, to ensure their wishes are carried out after death. Even though their partners or loved ones may be a significant part of the person’s life, and as though married or a member of the family, this doesn’t always mean they have the right to inherit.

As a result, will writing professionals will need to put specialised consideration into how a single person’s estate will be distributed. This will include the following considerations:

  1. Professional executors: unless your client has friends they trust, or believe are qualified to carry out your clients wishes then the professional executor route may be an attractive option.
  2. Pre-paid funeral plans: these ensure that your clients’ funeral expenses will be paid should something happen to them.
  3. Certainty: the national will writing register will allow friends or family to determine whether a person has made a will.
  4. Intestacy: the rules of intestacy need to be made clear to the customer. Your client may not want their family to inherit, which they would do under the laws of intestacy.
  5. Charity: your client may wish to leave their estate to a charity.
  6. Pets: if your client has pets they may wish to make allowance for them in their will.

Are there any standard or even additional considerations or processes you conduct for single clients? Are these cases particularly challenging, more so than with married clients?

Please share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.

*Information taken from the ONS survey 2011.

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