As you’ve gotten older, the term estate planning has probably been brought up every now and then.
Many view this as a process for the elderly or wealthy, but these are common misconceptions. In reality, estate planning is applicable to every adult regardless of age, income, or assets.
What is Estate Planning?
In layman's terms, estate planning is the process of allocating your assets and wishes through a variety of legal documents. Working with an estate planning attorney, you record an inventory of your estate, name your beneficiaries and their inheritance, determine power of attorney, assign guardianship for your children, and more.
This process is intended to speak for you in the event that you are incapacitated from an injury, illness, or death. Instead of leaving your property without an heir or your child without a guardian, you premake these decisions in a legally binding document. When the time comes, your loved ones can reference this plan to ensure your specific wishes are followed.
What Age Should I Start Planning?
In our professional opinion, it’s never too early to start. As soon as you are a legal adult, we suggest drafting a plan and updating it every few years.
You might be thinking, I’m too young for that or I’m perfectly healthy, but it’s important to remember that estate planning makes decisions for you in life and death.
Estate planning names who you want making medical decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated, and who would have control over your finances. These are crucial decisions that could affect your future quality of life, so it's vital to have everything laid out exactly as you intend.
It also provides loved ones with access to important items, such as your bank account, home, and personal possessions should the need arise.
Preparing for the unexpected or the future protects your monetary investments, but more importantly, your autonomy. Starting “early” ensures you don’t have to worry down the line and prevents the burden from falling on your family.
Do I Really Need an Estate Plan?
The short answer is, yes! If you’re an adult, own material possessions, have money in your bank account, own a car, have a pet, or simply care about your loved ones, you need an estate plan.
Estate plans aren’t just for the sick, wealthy, or elderly — they’re for everyone.
Keep in mind that estate plans are not etched in stone. They are flexible, changing documents that you can tailor to different periods in your life. Depending on when you start your planning, not all of the traditional documents will apply to you — but they might in the future. That’s why estate plans were designed to grow with you.
For instance, if you haven’t had children yet, you don’t need to legally nominate a guardian. However, the moment you do have a child, you could simply add that document to your existing plan. Similarly, if you lived in an apartment but recently bought a home, modifying an existing trust gives you the power to delegate ownership to a loved one.
This is why we’re firm believers in starting an estate plan the moment you’re able to. Made with the ability to change and match your accumulation of assets, estate planning is something you can get started on right away.
How Do I Start My Estate Plan?
Once you’ve decided to start estate planning, we suggest reaching out to an estate planning attorney. These licensed professionals have the combined skills of a financial advisor and legal representative.
With an expert by your side, not only will you understand your options, but make educated decisions about what’s best for your future. Working together, you and your attorney will choose which documents to include based on your existing assets and wishes.
After outlining the structure of your plan, your attorney will then assist you in carefully filling out each document completely and accurately. This way, there will be no room for challenges or litigation in the future.
Once you have a draft, you can adjust your estate plan to accommodate your needs whenever they change.
Looking for an Estate Planning Attorney?
We have a team of experienced attorneys ready to walk you through the process step-by-step. Our estate planning services ensure your loved ones experience a smooth transition of assets and decision making.
For more information, or to schedule a consultation with your very own estate planning attorney, contact us today!