Nobody wants to die or think about their death, but the fact is it’s inevitable. And if you don’t plan for the estate you will inevitably leave behind, and draw up a will, your assets might easily land up in the wrong hands, or used for a purpose you disapprove of.
On the other hand, if you do create a will and an estate plan, you will have peace of mind … and so will your family and the people you love.
Dying intestate, without a will, is a nightmare for the people left behind. Not only will you be stripped (in death) of the ability to decide how your assets are disbursed, the people you love won’t know what you wanted and could end up with nothing.
So what does will and estate planning involve, and when does it become important in a person’s life?
Age is Not a Factor For will and Estate Planning
It is never too early to do will and estate planning. After all, consider the fact that when Americans turn 18, they are officially considered to be adults in the eyes of the law. This is why it is never too early for young adults to do serious will and estate planning.
While many young adults starting a family recognize the important of will and estate planning, it is important for all young people to make decisions that will impact on family and closed friends should they die prematurely.
Another important factor to realize is that wealth is not necessarily the primary factor. For instance, people of all ages (including very young adults) have life insurance policies and retirement accounts, and these are also a part of any deceased estate. They may not have valuable belongings or investments, but the estate as a whole could attract substantial value.
Death is a fact of life, and estate planning is an element that should never be ignored. Broadly speaking estate planning means that what you have to do is put your wishes down on paper in a legally accepted way, so that when you do die, your decisions are respected and followed.
But it’s not that simple. First of all there are different types of wills and related documents that need to be considered, and then there are other estate planning tools that need to be addressed.
Additionally, without wills and other legal documents, winding down a deceased estate will take a lot longer than necessary. This can be incredibly stressful for everybody left behind.
Important documents in estate planning include a last will and testament, a living trust, and a living will. Additionally, it is important to consider who will have financial power of attorney if you cannot make your own decisions, whether due to illness or death.
- Power of attorney involves appointing a trusted person, who may or may not be a family member, to make financial decisions in the event of illness or death.
- A living will is essentially a formal written health directive that outlines your wishes if you are in a physical state where you cannot communicate them yourself. For example, people who become terminally ill often specify in a living will that they do not want artificial nutrition that will result in them remaining in a vegetative state or irreversible coma. Without a living will, this would not be legally possible.
- Trusts are particularly valuable for young couples with young children because they enable them to designate how money in the estate will be used to care for the children. A trust will also enable one to designate how the money is used, for education for example.
- A last will and testament ensures that however old (or young) you are, your wishes in terms of who gets your belongings or money is honored.
While death is an emotionally draining time for those left behind, estate planning does, in its own way, make it just a little bit easier on family and friends. It also ensures that fights over money and property left behind by the deceased loved one simply don’t feature.
While every family has different legal needs in terms of will and estate planning, it’s important to know what the laws and processes are for your state. It is also really important to ensure that you take all possible steps to safeguard your assets within the confines of your family and loved ones.