“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin may not have been referencing estate planning when he made that statement, but aptly applies to creating estate planning documents. There are many individuals who have incorrectly assumed that estate planning is only for elderly individuals with a lot of assets; however, it is never too early to start planning. In fact, the sooner you create an estate plan, the better. Estate planning is a key part of living a responsible life and should not be misunderstood to apply only when death is imminent or when you have amassed great wealth. Life is full of surprises and the more prepared you are to deal with those surprises, the easier it will be for you and your family when any unforeseen circumstance arises.
If you are young, healthy, and not responsible for financially dependent individuals, then estate planning is not likely to require too much energy on your part. Regardless, you may want to think about drafting a simple last will and testament if you have any possessions you would like to leave to someone other than your parents or siblings. Also, having a living will that inform your family about your wishes regarding medical treatment in the event that you become incapacitated or are unable to speak for yourself is a simple way to avoid any disagreements among family members who may be tasked with determining how to handle the situation. Similarly, a durable power of attorney for health care allows you to designate an individual with the authority to carry out your desires as expressed in your living will, proving to be another way to spare your family from making difficult decisions in an already difficult situation. What life has in store for us is not always known and this uncertainty makes estate planning appropriate for everyone, regardless of their age.
For individuals or couples with young children, the estate planning process becomes increasingly important. When you have minor children, you not only have to worry about the distribution of your assets upon your death, but you will also have to determine who will act as your children’s guardian or who will serve as your children’s financial trustee to make sure your child is well taken care of in your absence. The success of your estate plan will largely depend on your family; therefore, make sure you notify your family members of your wishes and the documents that detail your desires and intent. This will not only ensure that any asset or financial transfer occur successfully, but may even prevent any unintended family disputes.
Beginning the estate planning process early can afford you the peace of mind of being prepared for the unexpected. By laying down the groundwork for your estate planning now, you will only have to worry about making amendments that may become necessary to reflect major changes in life circumstances. As Benjamin Franklin warned, do not fail to prepare. For more information on this subject or to help you with your estate plan, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced estate planning and probate litigation attorneys at Chepenik Trushin LLP, who are ready, willing, and able to walk you through the estate planning process.