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Are you single? Why estate planning is so important

During 2014 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that, for the first time in recorded U.S. history, the percentage of unmarried adults surpassed those who are married. While nationally, an estimated 50.2 percent of U.S. adults are single, the number of single adults in large metropolitan areas tends to be higher. In New York City, for example, a survey by NerdWallet found that 57.84 percent of the adult population is single. This percentage was significantly higher in other large cities including Washington D.C., with 70.27 percent and Boston where 69.32 percent of adults are single.

For single adults, many may believe that estate planning is something that only parents and married people need to address. In reality, any and every adult should take steps to establish a comprehensive estate plan.

Just because an individual doesn't have a spouse or child, doesn't mean that he or she doesn't have to be concerned about long-term care needs and costs or what would happen if he or she became incapacitated and wasn’t able to make important healthcare and financial decisions. Additionally, single individuals must also account for the distribution of their assets and personal belongings or risk that the state will do so on their behalf and without any regard of their wishes.

If anything, being single makes having clear directives for these types of issues even more important as there's no legal decision-making default to a spouse. Additionally, once an individual has established a living will, healthcare proxy, beneficiary designations and powers of attorney; it's extremely important that single adults regularly revisit and update an estate plan.

While a married individual with children is likely to always, barring divorce or death, include a spouse and children in important estate planning matters; a single individual may lose touch with previously close friends or break up with a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend. An attorney who handles estate planning matters can answer questions, provide advice and assist an individual in ensuring that one's wishes and goals for the future are respected and updated accordingly.

Source: The New York Times, "Estate Planning for the Never-Married," Fran Hawthorne, Nov. 11, 2015

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