Married couples and parents usually know who the beneficiaries of their estates will be, and who will be their health care proxy, or have the power to make health-care decisions on their behalf in the event they become incapacitated. If you are unmarried and have no children, you may wish to leave your assets to your parents and/or siblings. But if you live thousands of miles away from them, then it may be more advantageous to give your health care proxy to friends who live close to you.
There is an increasing number of Americans who have never married or had children. Statistics from the Pew Research Center reveal that in 2012, 20 percent of adults age 25 and older had never married; this represents an increase of nine percent from 1960. There has also been a fluctuation in the number of women age 40 to 44 who had not borne children. That number was 10 percent in 1976, 20 percent in 2005, and 15 percent in 2014.
Very often, people think that they do not have to attend to such matters because they have no spouse or children. However, the necessity to clarify in writing whom you would like to make important decisions for you is even greater because it may be unclear to others. When people fail to clearly state their intentions, the majority of state laws comply with strict rules of inheritance. It is far preferable to name your beneficiaries and powers of attorney for health care and finances than to have your estate go to distant relatives or important decisions made by someone not of your own choosing.
However, there is some disagreement among estate planning experts as to whether financial heirs should also have the ability to make legal and medical decisions. Some specialists recommend that attorneys, accountants and bank trust officers take care of legal and financial matters, and that relatives and close friends who are within close proximity and have sufficient time, be in charge of making medical decisions. They also advise that people review their choices every five years.