Estate planning is a life-long project. As soon a person reaches the age of majority, they gain full control of their medical and financial affairs. This is great and yet with new responsibility comes new risk. Even if a young person has no substantial assets and no dependents, they have a need for a financial and medical power of attorney and a basic will. This is where the estate planning journey begins. Let us explain.
Every Adult Needs an Estate Plan
Whether you’re nineteen or ninety if you suffer an incapacitating accident your health and finances fall into jeopardy. Cell phone providers, utility companies, and banks aren’t concerned about your well-being, after all, and some financial transactions can’t wait—even if you’re hospitalized.
A durable power of attorney addresses this danger by allowing you to designate a trusted loved one to handle your financial affairs in your stead. Your power of attorney can pay your bills, manage your investments, close important transactions, etc., thereby ensuring your finances are secure while you recover from whatever accident may have occurred.
A medical power of attorney (sometimes called a healthcare directive) operates similarly. When you suffer incapacitation, you may not be able to advocate for the type of care you wish (or wish not) to receive. Your medical power of attorney protects against this danger by allowing you to designate a trusted loved one to make healthcare-related decisions on your behalf. In making this designation, you also spell out your care expectations, thereby disarming potential conflict among family who may have competing ideas about what’s best.
Finally, no matter your age or level of affluence, you need a will.
A will is not just a set of instructions that dictate how your assets should be distributed when you die, but also a tool that serves to protect your family from strife. Whether you own a little or a lot, your belongings carry sentimental value for your loved ones. The charge of a death in the family often triggers tension. Ensuring you leave clear instructions concerning what you wish done with your assets helps relieve this. Furthermore, your will is where you outline your funeral expectations and any other last wishes—all of which helps diffuse conflict.
A Basic Estate Plan is Only the Beginning
Just as important as having an estate plan is keeping it updated. Once you have your basic documents in place, the next step is to ensure they evolve as you do.
Life changes. Kids arrive. Relationships start and end. Global events disrupt markets. Businesses prosper and implode. Loved ones die. Legislation changes. And anytime any of these things happen, your estate plan deserves an update.
An experienced estate planning attorney is the best person to get you started on your estate planning journey and ensure you stay on track. This year, after ringing in the new year, then, make organizing your affairs your first priority. After all, 2023 may be full of promise but it is also full of unknowns.