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Is estate planning important for those without children?

Many people here in Massachusetts realize how vital it is to have an estate plan. It is important to be sure assets are distributed in the way the estate owner wants, and to have directives in place if that individual is unable to make his or her own financial and medical decisions. Typically, many people appoint their children as their executor, especially since their children will likely inherit their estate. However, many people do not have children, so the importance of estate planning may not seem as tangible. Fortunately, experts have advice on how to handle an estate plan for those who do not have children.

The main point is that the estate owner will need to decide on someone else who can serve as his or her agent. That person may be a friend, another relative or even a professional. The agent may have to make several different kinds of choices regarding the estate, so it is imperative that that person be someone trustworthy.

For financial decisions, a financial durable power of attorney can authorize someone to make those kinds of choices for another person who is unable to do so for him or herself. Another option is to establish a living trust. The trust can do many of the same things that the durable power of attorney can do, but also helps to avoid probate, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process.

When it comes to choices about someone's health care, there are a few options. A person can designate a health care power of attorney, who may be the same person as the financial power of attorney, or someone else, who can follow specific instructions laid out by the person granting the power. Also, a living will can document a person's exact wishes for end-of-life medical care. It may also be a good idea to give an agent a authorization so the agent can access the individual's medical records, if necessary, without concern for violating applicable privacy laws.

Whatever choices a person makes, it is easy to see that estate planning is vital for anyone, regardless of whether that person has children or not. Those here in Massachusetts who need more information may want to reach out to an estate planning attorney. It may be the best way to ensure that one's wishes concerning these matters are honored.

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