The term “estate planning” can seem overwhelming. It shouldn’t be. It simply involves determining what you want to happen to your assets when you’re gone as well as who will make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated due to injury or illness and are, therefore, unable to speak for yourself.
Let’s look at a couple of questions people often ask – or think they know the answer to (but don’t) when it comes to estate planning to empower and inform your own approach to this process.
Aren’t I too young to create an estate plan?
If you’re legally an adult, you should have at least some estate planning documents in place. Namely, you’ll want to have an advance directive for health care in which you state your wishes concerning medical care. For example, you may wish to indicate when you would and would not want life-sustaining measures continued (or stopped) if you become seriously ill or injured and can’t make these decisions yourself. This effort will likely involve appointing a healthcare proxy to communicate with your medical providers on your behalf.
You should also have a durable power of attorney (POA) for finances. This designation lets you grant someone authority to pay your bills and handle other financial matters while you are incapacitated. Remember that once you’re legally an adult, your parents no longer automatically have the right to do these things for you unless you designate that they do. Of course, you can choose any trusted family member or friend if you prefer.
Do I have to leave my assets to family members?
One of the advantages of having an estate plan is that you can designate precisely to whom you want to leave your assets. If a person dies intestate (without a will), state law determines who will inherit your property. State law favors those who are most closely related to the deceased, regardless of what their actual relationships were. If you don’t have a spouse or minor children, you can typically leave all of your family members out of your will and give everything to your favorite charities, friends or virtually anyone else you choose.
Estate plans are as unique as the people who create them. Few are a “one and done” proposition. It’s wise to create a plan for your life as it is now and in the foreseeable future. You can then amend it as things change. With sound legal guidance, you can always have an estate plan that meets your needs – and get all of your questions answered at any time.