One of the most popular questions that I get asked during consultations is whether a client is “too young” to engage in Estate Planning. What makes this question most interesting is that it is asked by people of all ages. It’s not often that I receive the same question from someone who is 20 and someone who is 70 as they are typically looking for vastly different services to be provided but this question continues to be the exception.
Sadly, it’s hard to even open up a newspaper nowadays without reading a tragic story of a life cut too short or someone receiving a life changing disability. We live in a world wrought with daily dangers that we often take for granted that can quickly change a life in nothing more than the blink of an eye.
Daily tragic occurrences also are a constant confirmation of the need for an estate plan for people of all ages. At it’s core, estate planning serves as a vehicle to speak after death in a sense, in that your family will immediately know your wishes upon the happenstance of an unfortunate event. The peace of mind given to your family after you are gone in knowing that they are honoring your wishes is invaluable.
Many people equate estate planning with the preparation of stacks and stacks of verbose and voluminous documents and think of the process as an unneeded, lengthy and expensive hassle. While there certainly is a certain amount of paperwork and time necessary to prepare every estate plan, it is misguided to think that every estate plan need be a complicated and lengthy process.
In my opinion, the key to effective estate planning is the communication between attorney and client. By working together to address key concerns, the time, stress, and cost of an estate plan can always be tailored to meet the needs of every client.
While all of the above is well and good, the question remains WHY do people of all ages need an estate plan?
- Do you want to be involved in your medical treatment if you are physically unable to communicate your wishes?
The first answer that I typically receive when I ask clients this question is usually something along the lines of:
“My husband /wife /mother /son/ daughter will know what to do when that time comes.”
It is a wonderful gift to be able to completely and unequivocally trust another human to make those decisions for you. There is little doubt that such a level of trust is rooted in a very special relationship based on love and compassion. Consider however the position that you are putting your loved ones in. If the situation was reversed and you were asked to make a decision for your own loved one wouldn’t you be more comfortable if the family member needing care gave you some direction into their own wishes? Also be conscious of the all too familiar scenario when no family member is designated as authorized to make health care decisions and there are conflicting opinions within a family. This certainly is a messy situation that can be easily avoided with basic planning tools.
2. What happens to my checking account, savings account and retirement account?
This is another question that often results in a familiar answer:
“I don’t have that much money available so it’s probably not worth it for me to even worry about that.”
This is also an extremely misguided position. Even for very small estates it is not uncommon for family members to seek out representation following the death of a loved one for help administering the estate. Simple estate planning documents prepared during your life can make the settlement of your estate a very simple and cost-effective process.
There are so many other reasons that people of all ages and financial status need to create a basic estate plan. In the coming days and weeks I will continue to touch on some of these issues on this blog!