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Estate planning 101 for single adults

Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced a landmark shift in the societal makeup of the U.S. when it announced that single adults in the U.S. now outnumber those that are married. To put things into perspective of just how big of change this is, in 1950 only about 22 percent of U.S. adults reported being single. Today, that percentage has soared to 50.2 percent as a growing number of U.S. adults are delaying or foregoing marriage altogether.

Until recently, estate planning models were largely focused and geared towards meeting the needs of married adults with children. However, making plans and decisions with regard to where and how one's assets and belongings will be distributed are equally as important for single adults.

Regardless of marital status, a will is an essential estate planning document that provides the base upon which additional estate planning pieces can be built. For a single adult, a will can be used to detail the distribution of one's assets, appoint a guardian for minor-aged children and name an estate executor.

In addition to a will, a living will or healthcare proxy is a vital component of a comprehensive estate plan. By establishing a living will, an individual is able to make his or her wishes known with regard to medical interventions and end-of-life matters. For someone who is single, it's especially important to name a medical power of attorney as this individual can legally make decisions on one's behalf in the event an individual becomes incapacitated.

In addition to a will and a living will, single adults are also advised to ensure that their beneficiary designations are up-to-date. Simply updating a will to reflect one's wishes with regard to assets held in a retirement account or life insurance policy isn't enough. The actual beneficiaries named in these types of accounts and policies will always trump those named in a will.

Source: Forbes, "Estate Planning For Single People," Douglas Rothermich, June 18, 2015

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