If you’re in your 20s, just starting a career, living on a meager income and perhaps struggling to pay off your student debt, estate planning is probably the last thing on your mind. All things considered, however, it should not be.
You may ask, why is estate planning important, especially for a young person? The answer is that estate planning is not just for the well-to-do and the elderly. It has nothing to do with being young and living on a limited income and instead, everything to do with deciding how your property will be distributed in case of a tragedy. In effect, estate planning is an unselfish act, a way taking care of the ones you love, alleviating them of the burden of having to make difficult decisions during a time of pain and loss.
As a young adult, you do not need to do anything really complicated to make plans for your estate. A small number of vital documents will ensure that a tragic situation is not made worse by any prolonged legal controversies.
Essential Estate Planning Documents
1. A Will
Even someone in their 20s needs a will that states to whom you wish to leave your assets in case of your death. Without a will, the court will determine the distribution of your assets, meager as they may be, and that could leave a particular loved one with nothing. If, for example, you had a long-term romantic partner to whom you were not married, that person would have few, if any, legal rights to any portion of your estate unless you designated them as a beneficiary in your will. In addition to your beneficiaries, the will should also name an executor who would be responsible for the distribution of your estate.
2. Durable Power of Attorney
This document names an attorney-in-fact or agent to take care of the financial and legal side of your life if you are incapacitated and no longer able to do so. Without a power of attorney, your parents might have to go to court to gain permission to pay your bills and handle other personal business you cannot conduct for yourself.
3. Medical Power of Attorney
In this document, you name an attorney-at-will or agent to oversee your medical treatment if you are unable to do so and work with your doctors and other health care providers to make sure you get the kind of medical treatment you desire. Your designated representative is legally bound to follow your directives, to the extent that they know them.
In the preparation of these documents, you can name one attorney-at-will for both or two separate individuals, one for each document. If you designate two different individuals, they must be able to work together amicably in making decisions on your behalf.
4. Health Care Directive
This document, also known as a “living will” or Texas Directive to Physicians, comes into play if you are terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state and unable to communicate your wishes about medications and life-prolonging procedures. It states clearly the medications and procedures you want – or don’t want – to prolong your life.
5. A Trust
This document would be important if you have children and do not necessarily want them to get their inheritance in one lump sum when they turn 18. Under a trust, their inheritance could be managed and withheld until they are older and more settled and mature.
6. An Estate Planning Attorney
Once aware of the need for these estate documents, you might ask, “Do I need an estate planning attorney?” While it is true you can now find many online DIY templates that individuals can use to prepare these documents for themselves, there is a downside to this kind of estate planning. Namely, if you prepare these extremely important documents on your own, it is quite easy to overlook significant issues because of a lack of understanding of all the nuances involved in estate planning.
Hammerle Finley Law Firm Can Help Plan Your Estate Correctly
Furthermore, not all these online templates are equal in quality, and even the best of them cannot provide the personalized guidance of an experienced estate attorney. Your estate plan does not have to be either complicated or expensive, but a comprehensive plan drawn up with professional legal assistance will provide for the people you care about the most and help them carry out your wishes.