Whether or not you are married has nothing to do with the ability to choose who will handle your estate when you die. When you make a will, you typically name an executor, called a personal representative in some states, to manage and distribute your estate. You can name a friend, relative, attorney or financial professional as your executor. The executor may or may not be a beneficiary of your estate.
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The initial and most important part of estate planning is creating a will. If you die without a will, or intestate, the laws of intestate succession in your state determine who receives your property, based on kinship ties if you are unmarried. Consult with an attorney about drafting a will and other estate planning matters, or consider using an online site like LegalZoom to make your will.
Once probate is opened and the executor is appointed by the probate court, the executor begins to administer the estate. The executor must notify all beneficiaries that the will is in probate and collect all assets of the estate, consisting of all real and personal property. He must also notify creditors, pay your funeral expenses, taxes and all other debts from the estate assets, and eventually distribute the assets to beneficiaries.
Choosing an Executor
If you are a senior citizen, consider choosing a younger executor for your estate. You should also name an alternative executor if your primary choice declines or is unable to serve. The role of executor entails a great deal of responsibility and is also time-consuming. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, probate can take a year or more. If your choice of executor is a professional, such as an attorney, the executor may be paid from estate assets. Most states include executor compensation in their statutes, generally a percentage of the estate's value. Executors may also waive compensation.
Depending on your personal circumstances, you may want to choose co-executors to work jointly to administer the estate. If you are a single parent with minor children, you may want to chose a family member as a co-executor to deal with certain aspects of the estate and guardianship, while choosing another executor to handle financial and administrative responsibilities. Let any potential executor know beforehand that you would like him to handle your estate to ensure the person is willing and able to shoulder this responsibility.