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Estate planning when you’re on your own

If you’re unattached, you may not have given much thought to estate planning — it tends to come more to the forefront of people’s minds when they marry or have children. However, single people need good estate plans just as much as married people do — maybe even more, especially if you have a lot of assets built up in your name.

If you die without leaving a will, or intestate, all of your possessions get distributed according to state law. In Indiana, that means that any children you have would inherit first, then your parents. If your parents are deceased, your siblings would inherit everything. If they die first, your nieces and nephews would inherit. Ultimately, if your parents are deceased and you’re an only child, the state will take everything you own.

That’s a distressing idea to a lot of people. You worked hard to get what you have — those assets should go to a better purpose than just enhancing the state’s budget.

However, deciding how you want your assets divided isn’t the only issue that’s important for single people to address. For many people, the question of who would be in charge if something awful happened and left them unable to care for themselves is even more critical.

Estate planning includes setting up the paperwork that’s needed to address those concerns. You can give one or more individuals the legal authority to access your accounts and handle your bills if you’re suddenly incapacitated. You can also designate someone as your health care proxy. If you’re unable to make your own health care decisions for any reason, that person would have the right to make them for you. That could be important if you have strong feelings about being put on life support or a feeding tube.

It’s important to understand that estate planning isn’t just about the end of your life — it’s also about preserving your legacy and the quality of your life when you aren’t able to act on your own behalf.

Source: Forbes, “Estate Planning For Single People,” Douglas Rothermich, accessed April 20, 2018