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Advice for Oprah Winfrey, Leo DiCaprio, and the "Never Marrieds"

By Catherine Hodder, Esq. | Last updated on

What do Oprah Winfrey and Leonardo DiCaprio have in common? They never married. The Pew Research Center reports a significant increase in people reaching age 40 without marrying. In 2021, 25% of 40-year-olds in the United States had never married. This is a rising trend as people delay or choose not to marry at all.

Reasons Why People Never Marry

Many sources argue that the economy makes it harder to afford a spouse and family. Others claim that women in the workforce delay marriage and children to establish their careers first.

Some people choose not to marry. Oprah Whitney is one of the "never marrieds." As a hugely successful media personality, she never wed her long-time beau, Steadman Graham. She claims that she never wanted to make sacrifices in her career that it takes to make a marriage work.

Other people do not make marriage a priority for a fulfilling life. Movie star, Leonard DiCaprio, is 48 years old and hasn't yet tied the knot. In a 2016 interview with Parade magazine, Leo said, "The truth is, you can't predict marriage. You can't plan it. It's just going to happen when it happens."

Other people don't see the point of marriage. While societal norms are more accepting of "never marrieds," unfortunately, the legal system hasn't caught up with them. Many laws favor spouses for property distribution and benefits. So, how can you protect yourself if you are single and haven't found the right person or are in a relationship but don't intend to marry?

Plan For Illness or Incapacity

If you are incapacitated and cannot make medical decisions, typically, medical providers reach out to family members. However, this becomes more difficult with stringent HIPAA laws protecting patient privacy.

By creating a health care power of attorney, advance medical directive, or living will, you may name someone as your healthcare agent to get medical information on you, talk to doctors, make healthcare decisions, and honor any instructions you include.

And if you have an incapacity, who will pay your bills and manage your financial affairs? You can name someone you trust as your agent in a financial power of attorney document. Your agent handles your bank account, pays taxes, and handles your special needs.

Protect Your Loved Ones and Assets With a Will

When someone dies without a last will and testament, they die "intestate." A probate court follows state intestacy laws to distribute their estate. If the person is married, the estate goes to their spouse and family. If they are single and don't have children, their parents become the beneficiaries.

If you are single and want your estate to go to certain loved ones, for example, a significant other or your nieces and nephews, you should make a will to avoid intestacy laws. Not having a will may lead to unintended consequences.

For example, When the Georgia rapper Takeoff died at 28, he was single and did not have children. Under Georgia intestate laws, his estate, valued at over $26 million, went to his mother and father. However, his mom was the one who raised him. He did not have a relationship with his father. Now his mother must fight over his estate in court.

If you are single and have minor children, it is crucial to name someone to take care of your children in the event of your death. Typically, the surviving parent is the caregiver. However, if the child's other parent is not in the picture, terminated their parental rights, or is unfit, a court must nominate the child's guardian. You can choose someone you know will be a good guardian for your children by naming them in a will. They are responsible for your child's education, well-being, medical and financial support.

So the best thing a single person can do is to make a will. They can ensure their property goes to whoever they wish and have their children or pets cared for by someone they choose.

A comprehensive estate plan gives you peace of mind. You can hire an estate planning attorney for legal advice or create your own estate planning documents with online legal document formation services.

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