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Estate planning for childless singles

The dismal news is that 64 percent of Americans do not have a will. When estate planning is overlooked, a person essentially agrees to allow Oklahoma courts to decide who gets what. More critically, someone who does not prepare may have no one to make vital medical or financial decisions in the event of an emergency. Married couples with children may rely on state laws to appoint their spouses and children as proxies or beneficiaries. However, those without families do not have that safety net.

For widowed spouses without children or those never married, choosing a health-care proxy may be quite difficult. Such a choice requires trust and an intimacy that may be a challenge to find. However, including a living will with an estate plan outlines a person's wishes for end-of-life decisions and provides a guide for one's proxy. When it comes to someone to act as a durable power of attorney, most advisors suggest it be someone other than the appointed health-care proxy. Some recommend hiring a professional for this duty.

As far as the distribution of one's assets, having no children to inherit the estate does not mean a person does not need a will or trust. In fact, it may be even more important in order to prevent one's belongings from becoming the property of the state. Some advocates recommend establishing a trust for a favorite charity. Doing so early also allows the grantor to witness the good the trust will do in the lives of others.

A person with no spouse or children has many options regarding estate planning. Oklahoma law will not distribute someone's assets to a friend or charity without legal documentation in the form of a will or trust. An estate planning attorney can provide information on the many options available to those who are ready to prepare for the future.

Source: CNBC, "Planning your estate when you've got no children or heirs", Sarah O'Brien, May 31, 2017

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