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Estate-Planning for Singles

Christine Benz

Christine Benz: So, Deborah, lastly, I want to focus on younger people who aren't yet married, maybe people in their 20s and 30s, what are some estate planning considerations for people with that profile?

Deborah Jacobs: Well, it is true that if you are not married and you don't own property and you don't have children, your estate planning is much simpler than it is for other people.

But I think that young, unmarried people still need to have a durable power of attorney and a health-care proxy, and for many of them, it hasn't been so long since their parents were doing all of this for them, and if something happens, something terrible happens and takes them by surprise, they'll be surprised among other things to suddenly find out that mom and dad legally can't step in and handle these things anymore, like tap into their bank account and pay their rent or even talk to their doctors without permission.

So, whether they have a will or not, I really encourage people in this age group minimally to have a durable power of attorney and a health-care proxy.

The other thing is that when they start work and they go to human resources on the first day of work, they may find they need to fill out a lot of paperwork, saying who is going to be the beneficiary of their retirement account and who is going to be the beneficiary of their life insurance policy, and they need to pay as much attention to this as anybody else.

And if you, for instance, are involved in a relationship, and you think you'll do a good deed and name your boyfriend or girlfriend, say, as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, make sure and go back and change that if you break up. I heard recently of a terrible situation where somebody didn't.

Benz: One other thing, Deborah, I know and I'll confess that this is something I did when I was younger and just starting out. I made my dad the beneficiary and didn't realize that I could have been creating an estate tax problem for him if he happened to inherit all of my assets--not that there were a lot at that point, but it was something I had not thought through at all.

Jacobs: That's a great point.

Benz: Okay, Deborah, well, thank you so much for sharing your expertise, a lot of valuable insights here. We really appreciate you joining us.

Jacobs: Thank you for having me.

Benz: Thanks for watching. I'm Christine Benz for Morningstar.