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Phone: 201-345-3018

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Estate planning for singles: A different approach

For many in New Jersey, the main focus of planning one's estate is to ensure that loved ones receive the inheritance that is planned for them, without incurring heavy taxation and outside of the probate process. For those residents who are unmarried and do not have children, estate planning may be structured around a different focus. Many forget that an important function of estate planning can have an impact while an individual is still alive.

Singles should give serious consideration to how their interests would be looked after in the event of an incapacitating illness or injury. For married people, a spouse often fills this role, or an adult child. When a single person becomes unable to make decisions on his or her own behalf, the situation becomes a lot more complex.

The best way to ensure that the proper level of care is attained is to carefully outline one's wishes in writing. Single people should begin with a health care directive along with a health care power of attorney, which allows an individual to state the type of health care he or she would like to receive if a crisis were to arise, and which individual is entrusted with guiding the course of such care. It is possible to be very detailed, including specifying whether the use of life support technology is desired. It is also possible to simply grant the chosen individual the power to assess the situation and make decisions accordingly.

Without the proper planning, individuals who are incapacitated through illness or injury become caught in a legal quagmire. Even if a friend or family member steps up and is willing to take on the role of caregiver, he or she will have to jump through a number of legal hoops in order to be granted the permission to fill that role. That process can take a significant amount of time, leaving the incapacitated individual with no clear advocate until the matter is resolved.

Creating the proper estate planning documents is far less time consuming than many New Jersey residents realize. While many single people are not overly focused on distributing their wealth in the event of their death, the matter of incapacitation often strikes a chord. No one wants to fall victim to injury or illness and lack the personalized attention that a designated caregiver could provide. However, without proper planning, that is a real possibility.

Source: mainstreet.com, "5 Items Singles Need to Handle Their Worst-Case Estate Planning", Brian O'Connell, April 22, 2015

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