First off, as I’ve stated many times in previous blog, you do not NEED an estate plan. Every state has laws in place to handle situations arising from people with no estate documents. For example, in South Carolina, if you become incompetent or disabled and have no Financial or Healthcare Power of Attorneys, your parents, spouse, friend, partner, etc. can go to the Probate Court and petition the Court to be appointed as you Conservator (Finances) and/or your Guardian (healthcare/everything else). Similarly, if you die with no will or trust in place, South Carolina’s intestacy laws will control and dictate how your estate is distributed.
If you, like so many out there, find that leaving your care and estate up to the discretion of the State to be less than satisfactory, then you should speak with an Estate Planning Attorney and get your affairs in order.
Now with that being said, I am frequently asked by people “I am ____ years old. What do I Need?” Below is a breakdown, by age, of what estate planning documents you should consider based upon your age and current situation.
*NOTE: This breakdown is just a guideline. Everybody has a different situation. Everybody should take this guideline as basic information to get you thinking about the different documents you should have at each age. Talking with a qualified Estate Planning Attorney is the best option because they will be able to give you specific advice based upon your specific situation
After the age of 18, financial and healthcare decisions are no longer defaulted to your parents. Many people in this age group, especially those in their early twenties, feel like they do not need an estate plan because they do not have an “estate”.
Single, twenty-somethings, should at bare minimum have a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney (financial). These documents allow you to name specific agents to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you cannot and to handle your finances in the event you cannot. Barring these documents, if something happens to you, your parents, partner, friend, sibling, etc. are going to have a rough time trying to help make decisions for you.
Married, twenty-somethings, with no children, should have the above mentioned Power of Attorneys and a Will. A will clearly indicates who you wish to handle your estate and how you wish you estate to be distributed. Having the power of attorneys will negate any issues that could arise between your spouse and your parents. Especially, if the two are not in agreement how to manage and handle your care. Similarly, having a will helps negate any issues over who should handle your estate and how should everything be distributed.
Married, twenty-somethings, with children. Again, all of the documents mentioned above are the bare minimums you should have at this point. Having a will when you have children is even more important because the will names Guardians for your children. If you and your spouse are both kill in a car crash, who is going to take care of your children? The will, naming guardians, will prevent the “battle of the in-laws”, over who should raise your children. A Living Trust is also a good document to consider.
Christina Lesher writes: Typically, this is the decade where you’ve purchased your first or second home, and may be well into starting a family. This is the age where you can begin to gather your financial information including assets, and even if you feel like you haven’t accumulated a large amount of assets, you still need to start planning your estate.
Bare Minimum: Wills, Healthcare Power of Attorneys, and Financial Powers of Attorneys.
At this stage in life, a thinking about a Trust is the best way to go.
Living trusts used by themselves or in conjunction with a will become really beneficial in safeguarding your family in the event you should become incapacitated. A trust is a legal device that states that your assets are transferred into the ownership of a designated trustee, who will manage those assets. You will have to determine a trustee and who will have the right to use the assets (beneficiary). (Lesher).
Forties and Fifties:
Hopefully, by this stage in life you have some form of an estate plan. If not, then not only should you consider everything mentioned above, but you should also start considering long term care insurance and retirement planning.
Long Term Care Insurance is always something to look into and consider. If the situation arises where you or your spouse has to go into a nursing home, then long term care insurance can help with those hefty bills.
Planning for retirement is extremely important. You need to be able to plan on how to save for retirement and how those funds can be protected should something happen to you or your spouse. It is also important to constantly reevaluate who you have named as death beneficiaries on such policies. As life progresses, people change, and so do who they want their estate to go to.
Sixties and Older:
At this stage in your life, you should just be focusing on how to refine and update your estate plan so that it suits your currents needs and wishes. Asset Protection planning to protect assets from nursing homes is also a good conversation to start having.
If you have no documents at this stage in your life, it is important to talk to an Estate Planning Attorney and get something together. Your family is going to grieve when you pass. Why make the process even harder because you did not plan well enough to handle your estate?
No matter your age, everyone needs an Estate Plan. Talk to an Attorney today.