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You may have not considered this, but did you know if you don’t have children, it’s even more important to have a carefully planned estate? Unfortunately people in this situation often overlook that crucial detail.

The three main places where your money could end up should something happen to you are charities; family and friends; and/or the government. Obviously, the latter option is usually the least appealing, yet a chunk of your money could end up with Uncle Sam if you fail to create a will.

While estate planning details like a will or trust, health care directives and power of attorney are important for people of any age, it’s extra vital for people without children to have them in place since the person making decisions in the event of an emergency won’t always an obvious choice.

As I implied in the previous paragraph, estate planning encompasses much more than simply creating a will. I recommend sitting down with a financial and/or legal expert who can help you get all the necessary documents in order.

This paperwork may include instructions in such areas as health care directives, long-term care insurance, living wills, and possibly even organ donation. If your wishes are clearly stated in estate plan documents, there won’t be any questions, disagreements, or necessity for court cases later on. Keep in mind the soaring costs of prolonged health care as you map out all the details of your estate plan.

Part of this estate planning will mean naming a loved one to make health- and finance-related decisions on your behalf should you be mentally or physically unable to do so. For married people, the obvious choice may be a spouse, but for single people there are many other options to carefully consider.

The more detailed and thorough you are in your health care directive, the better the situation will be in the event you actually need someone to access your estate planning documents. It may be an initially difficult process for you to write out what you want in terms of lifesaving and invasive measures, but it can help a hospital and/or loved ones make difficult decisions on your behalf according to your wishes in the event of an emergency, instead of guessing what you would have wanted.

After deciding whom you want to act on your behalf in the event of an emergency, you should also grant him or her access to your medical files while you are healthy enough to do so. Many people don’t realize that being single and over age 18 means you need to have a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act authorization form in order to give someone access to your health care information.

While laws and forms for estate-planning materials from wills to healthcare directives are different from state to state, several free or inexpensive online resources such as caringinfo.org, LawDepot.com, LegalZoom.com or individual state legislature websites can provide templates to help you get started in the process.

The bottom line: Everyone—whether single or not—has certain wishes for how they would like to be treated in their final days, and where their assets should go once they’re gone. That’s why it’s important to communicate such wishes via a concrete plan in order to make sure they are fulfilled. As soon as you are finished creating your plan, make sure the important people in your life—such as loved ones, doctors and lawyers—have access to it and understand the details within it.

Author Ron L. Brown, CFP®

Ron is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and President of R.L. Brown Wealth Management. He specializes in retirement, estate, and business planning for professionals and entrepreneurs. Ron assists his clients with creating a financial plan to ensure they are able to live their ideal lifestyle during retirement and leave a strong legacy for their family. Ron has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, US News, Yahoo Finance, Investopedia, and numerous other high profile financial publications.

More posts by Ron L. Brown, CFP®
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