Spring has Sprung. When Should I Start my Estate Plan? Now!
According to an article by MerchantsBank.com entitled: Guide to Estate Planning by Age, You might think estate planning doesn’t apply to you. You aren’t old enough. You don’t have enough assets. Think again.
“Most people think they don’t need an estate plan until they are older or have more money – but that’s simply not true,” says Martin Oines, CFP ®, CTFA, Trust Officer. “People at every age should put together an estate plan that fits their needs – from something very simple for a 30 year old to a fully funded trust plan for a 60 year old.
Here are the typical estate planning documents and issues to consider by age.
In Your 20s
Once you turn 18, your parents no longer have authority to make healthcare or financial decisions for you. That’s why it’s important to visit with a lawyer and get a:
- Healthcare Directive – Specifies which actions should be taken regarding your health if you are no longer able to make decisions.
- Power of Attorney – Names someone to make decisions for you if you can’t. There are several different types, but specifically you’ll want to consider a healthcare Power of Attorney for medical decisions and a financial Power of Attorney for financial decisions.
In Your 30s
Typically by your 30s, you own a home, have started a family, and have some financial assets. To make sure you protect your children and spouse, this is a good time to review – with the help of your lawyer or our Trust team – which legal devices make the most sense for your situation:
- Will – Specifies who will inherit your assets, who will take care of settling your estate and, if necessary, who will care for your children if you or your spouse are unable to.
- Trust – Transfers ownership of your assets to someone you choose (called the trustee) and dictates who will manage your assets for the beneficiaries you designate. Trusts can include different kinds of assets, such as real estate and investment accounts. Trusts can also be set up in many different ways. You may have heard of living trusts, revocable trusts or irrevocable trusts. To find out which one is right for you, consult with your lawyer.
In Your 40s
If you have the above documents and decisions in place by your 40s – congratulations! If not, it’s time to catch up.
Now is also the time to talk to your parents about their estate plan. While these conversations can be difficult, understanding your parents’ long-term financial and healthcare wishes is usually best for everyone.
Specifically, check with your parents to make sure they have legal documentation for:
- Distributing their assets (will, trust and beneficiary designations).
- How medical decisions will be made if they become incapacitated, including their preferences and who can make the decisions.
- Long-term care, including where they want to live and how they will pay for it. You parents may even have a long-term care insurance policy. Be sure to ask.
In Your 50s and 60s
If you haven’t done any estate planning by your 50s, you’re not alone. According to AARP, 42% of Baby Boomers do not have estate-planning documents in place.
Now is the time to get proactive and create these legal documents.
In Your 70s and Beyond
At this point, with your estate plan complete, you should focus on reviewing or updating your plan as appropriate. Make sure that your estate plan is as clear as possible and ready to be executed when necessary.
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