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3 reasons why estate planning is important for single people

When you ask people why they don't have an estate plan in place, you'll often get one of two answers. Some people know they need an estate plan, but they just have not gotten to it yet. Others think estate planning is not for "people like them."

Many single people fall into this second category. They mistakenly believe that estate planning is only for people who are married or who have children.

In fact, the opposite is true. It is especially important for single people to take steps to protect their safety and their legacy. 

Who will make your medical decisions?

When a married person is incapacitated, it assumed that their spouse will be able to speak on their behalf. For unmarried people, no such presumption exists, even for a life-long best friend or a committed romantic partner.

An advance health care directive allows you to name someone who can make medical decisions and authorize treatment on your behalf, if you are unable to speak for yourself. Some people also call this a "living will." In addition, it allows you to express all of your wishes in writing so that there is no confusion about what you would have wanted.

Who will manage your finances?

When a person becomes incapacitated, bills still need to get paid. Who would pay your mortgage or your medical bills if you could not? Who would help you get into a nursing home if you needed special care?

Even if you have a trusted loved one who would shoulder these duties for you, they wouldn't legally be able to access your accounts or act on your behalf. A power of attorney is a crucial tool that allows someone to act for you if you are incapacitated. If you don't want to ask a friend or relative to take on these duties, you can also have a professional fiduciary appointed.

What will happen to your assets?

When a person dies in California without a will, their assets are distributed in a process called "intestate succession." Basically, this means that your assets are passed on to your closest living relatives, using a formula set in state law.

Most single people would like something different to happen. For example, a long-term partner wouldn't have any claim to your estate. Or maybe you'd rather give some items to special friends, or make a donation to charity. Without a will, you have no control over what your legacy will be.

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