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Estate planning considerations for single professionals

Estate planning decisions are usually pretty straightforward for married people. Most often, your spouse is your main beneficiary and the person you choose to handle medical decisions in the case of incapacity. But what if you are single?

A recent article from the New York Times discussed this matter, which is getting all the more important as more and more people are putting off marriage while at the same time achieving professional success at a relatively young age.

In fact, the Times reported that 20 percent of those 25 and older had never been married in 2012, which was up from 9 percent in 1960, according to the Pew Research Center.

All too often, people think that they need to be married or have children in order for an estate plan to make sense, but this simply isn’t the case. However, an estate plan can actually be even more important for singles and those without children. Here’s why: It’s a lot less clear where your assets will go or who should have authority over health care decisions when you do not have a spouse or children.

In other words, there is a greater likelihood that the people who end up with your assets or making crucial decisions regarding your health will not be the people you would have chosen if you leave the decisions up to the court.

The laws often apply strict genealogical rules, which could result in a distant relative becoming your heir instead of your long-term partner or a close friend. Not only that, resorting to the intestacy laws of your state -- which apply when a person dies without an estate plan -- takes time and it takes money.

Ultimately, if you care about who has control over the decisions made regarding your health (if you can’t make them yourself) or who ends up with your assets, then you will want to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer right away to get a plan in place.

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