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A single adult's guide to estate planning

When it comes to estate planning, there's often a lot of focus on taking steps to provide for a surviving spouse or child. These discussions often leave many single adults feeling left out and scratching their heads wondering how estate planning applies to them and their individual concerns and circumstances.

During 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released data that showed that more than 50 percent, 50.2 to be exact, of U.S. adults are single. While these statistics didn't include information related to the percentage of single parents, for the purposes of this post we'll examine estate planning issues as they pertain to U.S. adults who are single and childless.

 

Regardless of one's marital or parental status, a will is an essential document that everyone should draft and ensure is regularly updated. A will can be used to detail one's wishes with regard to the distribution of assets and personal property as well as to assign an executor of one's estate who will handle all probate and outstanding financial matters.

In addition to a will, a living will is also considered a vital estate planning document. This document allows an individual to clearly state what medical interventions should and should not be taken in the event that an individual becomes incapacitated and unable to communicate his or her wishes. Along with a living will, a medical power of attorney should be designated as the individual who "is authorized to discuss and make decisions," on one's behalf and per one's wishes.

Ensuring that beneficiary designations are updated and correct is also an important component of estate planning. For example, if an individual fails to update a beneficiary designation that still lists a previous boyfriend or girlfriend, regardless of whether or not an individual's will says otherwise, that old flame would receive the designated assets.
Issues related to estate planning can be incredibly complex. For this reason, single and married individuals alike can benefit from the guidance and assistance of an attorney who specializes in estate planning.

Source: Forbes, "Estate Planning for Single People," Douglas Rothermich, June 18, 2015

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