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Why people without kids need an estate plan

Too often, people who don't have children don't have a will or other estate planning documents in place. However, in many cases, these are the people who need them the most. Even if you don't have children, you likely would prefer that other family members, favorite charities or even close friends get all of your money rather than have the government take a big chunk out of it, which could happen if you die without a will.

Even if you're married, there's no guarantee that your spouse won't predecease you. You should have contingency beneficiaries if he or she is no longer alive when you die. The question to ask yourself, as one California certified public accountant puts it, is "If today were your last day on earth, who would get your stuff?"

Beyond designating who will inherit your assets, it's also essential to have a health care directive in place as well as a durable power of attorney to carry out that directive. This may or may not be the same person you choose to be your POA for financial matters. Again, if you don't have children, it's particularly important to ensure that someone you trust will be taking charge of these matters. A health care directive allows you to lay out your wishes for your care if you're not in a position to give direction yourself. It can and should include matters like what lifesaving measures you want taken (or not) and whether you wish to donate organs.

Along with your health care directive, your estate plan should include a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act form that allows your health care POA to easily access your medical records. This makes things more convenient for that person and prevents unnecessary delays and costs for the person overseeing your health care.

An experienced California family law attorney can work with you to help ensure that you have all of the documents in place to detail your wishes, as well as agents designated to carry them out. It's important to have alternates in case the person you designate is unable to carry out that job. By having a detailed estate plan in place, you also help prevent inconvenience, expenses and often conflict for your loved ones in the days, weeks and months after you're gone.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "No Kids? You Still Need an Estate Plan," Molly McCluskey, Oct. 14, 2016

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