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The importance of living wills for singles

The passing of a loved one creates obvious emotional crisis for a family. But it can also fuel a financial crisis -- especially if there's no will.

The passing of a loved one can prompt an emotional crisis for a family. But it can also fuel a financial crisis, particularly if the deceased has failed to write a will. Being single with no children only complicates matters.

Laura Holson, who turns 50 this year, explored this issue for the New York Times. In the past, she admits, she never really thought about writing a will -- because she is single. But as more and more of her friends started trying to write their own wills, she started to think about what her friends and family might really want after she passed.

"It was totally awkward at the beginning," Holson confesses. "But then when I kind of explained to them, 'Hey I really like you and if I happen to die before you do, there may be something you want. Let's just be open and discuss it instead of me trying to kind of throw darts as to who wants what.'"

Holson says if you want to take charge of what will happen to your possessions, it's important to write a will.

"In my case -- when I was looking at it before I started -- if I died without a will everything would have gone to my parents first. But they were both dead. And from then, it would have gone to my brothers and sisters. There were certain things that I wanted to go to people other than my brothers and sisters, although I like them very well," she says. "I didn't really want the state to step in or somebody else to step in and tell me what I wanted. I wanted to take charge and do what I wanted and the way that you do that is just by writing a will."

Beyond possessions, she also had decisions to make about her own future; the importance of explaining what you want when it comes not just to your house, or coin collection -- but also your health.

"I'm like, 'If I'm brain dead, can you gently pull the plug?' Because the last thing I would want is for someone to be uncomfortable or to feel bad," she says. "In my own case with my mom, my brother and I, we had approval if something happened to her. That was a conversation my mom and I had about: Could you make a difficult decision?"  

That type of decision is called an advanced medical directive -- identifying preferred treatment preferences and designating someone a decision-maker in the event that you're unable to make medical decisions on your own behalf.

Holson says it's important to make that decision -- because you don't want to put someone in an uncomfortable position or make it hard for someone who has issues with death. And for people who don't take these steps, there could possibly be a lot of legal implications.


Do you need to write a social media will too? We've got a guide to bulletproofing your finances -- check it out.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.
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I have children, so my situation is a little different. But when I was setting up a trust, I asked my adult children if there were any of my "things" that they would especially like to have. My daughter mentioned my diamond and ruby cocktail ring that she had always liked.

Hmmm, I thought. Why wait? I gave it to her for the next occasion and now I get to see her enjoying it!

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