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Many people never give a second thought to planning their estates until they have children or reach middle age. However, estate planning is important at any age to ensure that your wishes are followed out should something unexpected occur.

Especially in California, more and more young professionals are acquiring substantial wealth earlier in life, often before getting married or starting families. In these situations, there is often a lot at stake should the individual pass away sooner than expected, for instance due to an accident or sudden illness.

Even among people without children, it is common have strong opinions about who they would like to inherit their wealth should they pass away. Perhaps a cherished niece or nephew, a favorite charity or even an alma mater. Without an estate plan, however, these wishes are not likely to be carried out.

Another reason to give some thought to estate planning sooner rather than later is that it can also be used to protect your own interests during life if you should become incapacitated by a serious injury or illness. For example, a health care directive can be used to provide instructions for the types of medical care you do or do not wish to receive, such as artificial respiration or a feeding tube. As part of your estate plan, you can also designate a trusted friend or family member to make decisions on your behalf if you lose the ability to communicate.

Of course, when it comes to estate planning, sooner is better than later. Even if you are young and single, there is no time like the present to get started. A lawyer with experience in estate planning can help you evaluate your options and ensure that they are set forth in a clear and legally enforceable manner. He or she can also help you keep your estate plan up to date as your circumstances change over time.

Source: Reuters, “Estate planning for the young, rich and childless,” Beth Pinsker, June 2, 2014