When Should Individuals Begin Estate Planning?
The answer is, it is never too early to plan your estate, even if you are not financially independent. At age 18 a person becomes an adult and the State estate planning statutes apply. The State will make determinations on how to handle situations in which you cannot make determinations yourself. Establishing an estate plan can provide peace of mind and ensure that your wishes are followed in the event of your incapacity or death. There are so many aspects of an estate plan beyond using a Will or a Trust. Below are decisions you will make for yourself when planning your estate.
What happens to your social media accounts after you pass away? When estate planning you can designate authority to access your electronically stored information (including social media). This authority allows a person to access your social media accounts and delete them if you so desire.
Have you ever asked yourself who you trust to pull the plug, or not to pull the plug based on your intention? If you are incapacitated, and cannot make your own decisions, what happens? Without an estate plan the State determines the person who will handle that decision making, and gives no credence to your wishes. When estate planning, two documents allow for you to make decisions about your future medical treatment in the event you are unable to do so at that time. These documents allow you to determine whether you want certain types of life sustaining medical treatments.
The Living Will (often confused with a Last Will) is a document that outlines an your wishes for medical treatment if you are in a terminal condition, permanent unconsciousness, or an end-stage condition. The Living Will goes into effect when you are unable to communicate your wishes and two doctors determine that you are in need of these certain types of medical treatments.
The Second Document is called the Healthcare Power of Attorney. This is the document that you will use to designate someone to make medical decisions for you if the you are unable to do so. This designated person is authorized to carry-out your wishes based on the contents of your Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney.
What if you are incapacitated? Who will handle your finances? The durable power of attorney is an important tool for ensuring that your financial affairs are taken care of if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. The powers can be broad or limited. The powers can range anywhere from exclusively paying bills, to handling business transactions or legal proceedings.
What about your funeral arrangements? Maybe you want a big party with Hawaiian shirts and no grief. Maybe you want a cremation. Maybe you want a religious ceremony. Maybe you want something that opposes the spiritual beliefs of your siblings or parents. An estate plan is where you determine who carries out your choices after you pass.
Estate planning is not just about who gets your stuff after you pass away. The ancillary reasons, social media accounts, planning for incapacity, and funeral arrangements are all reasons to plan your estate now rather than later.