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Single people still need estate plans

Our discussions of estate planning often deal with topics that are relevant to those with spouses or children, but single individuals can benefit from estate plans too. In fact, without trusted children or a spouse involved, an estate plan might be the only thing looking out for your best interests in final years.

For those with children or spouse, state laws often provide some information about how wealth is passed on without an estate plan. Individuals who are not married at the time of their death and who don't have a direct line of heirs such as children and grandchildren might need to use a will or other estate document if they want their assets to go to a certain person, group of people, or organization. As a single person, you can use a will or trust to create a legacy by gifting to a charity, or you can bequeath your assets to another family member, such as a niece or nephew.

Estate planning tools such as powers of attorney and health proxies can ensure your wishes are followed regarding your personal care if you are incapacitated or unable to handle medical or financial decisions at any time in your life. You can use these documents to designate who you want to handle your care or make certain decisions, and you can also record your wishes about these decisions ahead of time.

When designating someone as a power of attorney or other responsible party, make sure you speak with him or her first. Ensure the person is willing and able to perform the duties, and keep your estate plans updated with several backup options, as you never know what might happen in life.

Understanding the benefits of estate planning helps you create a more positive end of life. This is true whether you are married or single.

Source: Forbes, "Estate Planning For Single People," accessed Nov. 27, 2015

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