Estate Planning Blog Articles

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Estate Planning for Young Adults: Navigating Your Future with Confidence

Estate planning often conjures images of wealthy, older individuals drafting wills and trusts. However, young adults, especially those in their 20s and 30s, must also consider creating an estate plan. While it might seem premature, estate planning is crucial to personal finance management. This guide will walk you through the essentials of estate planning for young adults.

Why Do Young Adults Need an Estate Plan?

Contrary to popular belief, estate planning isn’t just for the elderly or the wealthy. Young adults may not realize the importance of an estate plan. It’s about protecting your assets, no matter how modest, and ensuring that your wishes are respected in case of unforeseen circumstances. Whether deciding who will inherit your belongings, who will make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to, or who will take care of your children, an estate plan gives you peace of mind.

What Is a Durable Power of Attorney and Why Is It Important?

A durable power of attorney is a fundamental document in estate planning. It grants someone you trust the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. This can include managing your finances, paying bills and handling investments. It’s crucial to ensure that your affairs are in order, even when you cannot manage them yourself.

The Role of a Health Care Directive in Estate Planning

A health care directive, also known as a living will, is a document where you designate someone to make health decisions for you if you cannot. This can include decisions about medical treatments, end-of-life care and even organ donation. It’s critical to your estate plan to ensure that your health care wishes are known and respected.

Understanding Guardianship and Its Significance

If you have minor children, appointing a guardian is one of the most critical decisions in your estate plan. This person will be responsible for your children’s care and upbringing, if you can no longer do so. Choosing a guardian ensures that your children are cared for according to your values and wishes.

The Process and Benefits of Probate

Probate is the legal process of administering your estate after your death. While it can be complex and time-consuming, understanding probate can help you create an estate plan that simplifies this process. By planning ahead, you can potentially save your loved ones time, money and stress during an already difficult time.

Life Insurance: A Vital Tool for Young Adults

Life insurance is essential to estate planning, especially for young adults. It’s not just about leaving an inheritance; it’s about providing financial security for your loved ones. A life insurance policy can help cover debts and funeral expenses and provide for your family’s future needs.

How to Care for Your Children with Estate Planning

Estate planning allows you to make provisions for your children’s financial and emotional well-being. Beyond naming a guardian, you can set up trusts, education funds and other arrangements to ensure that they are financially secure and that their upbringing aligns with your values and wishes.

Finding Peace of Mind with Comprehensive Estate Planning Documents

Putting together a comprehensive estate plan can seem daunting. However, it’s essential for your peace of mind. This includes drafting a will, setting up a power of attorney, creating a health care directive and more. These documents ensure that your wishes are clearly stated and legally binding.

The Importance of a Will and Last Testament

A will is the cornerstone of your estate plan. It allows you to specify who will inherit your assets, appoint a guardian for your children and even designate who will care for your pets. Without a will, these decisions could be left up to the courts, which may not align with your wishes.

Navigating Legal and Financial Decisions with an Estate Planning Attorney

Creating an estate plan can be complex. However, you don’t have to do it alone. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney ensures that your plan is legally sound and tailored to your needs. They can guide you through the process, providing valuable advice and peace of mind.

Key Takeaways

  • Start Early: Estate planning is not just for the elderly. As a young adult, it’s important to start planning early, especially if you have assets or dependents.
  • Appoint Guardians: If you have children, appointing a guardian is crucial in ensuring that they are cared for according to your wishes.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: This document is essential for allowing someone you trust to make financial decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated.
  • Health Care Directive: A health care directive ensures that your medical wishes are followed if you cannot communicate them yourself.
  • Life Insurance: Provides financial security for your loved ones and is an important part of your estate plan.
  • Consult Professionals: Seek advice from experienced estate planning attorneys to create a plan that suits your unique needs.
  • Review Regularly: As your life changes, your estate plan should be updated to reflect these changes.

If you’re ready to take the crucial step of securing your future and ensuring the well-being of your loved ones, we’re here to help. Protect what matters most and gain peace of mind for the years ahead. Contact us now to create a plan that reflects your wishes and secures your legacy.

Should I Try Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning?

US News & World Report’s recent article entitled “6 Common Myths About Estate Planning explains that the coronavirus pandemic has made many people face decisions about estate planning. Many will use a do-it-yourself solution. Internet DIY websites make it easy to download forms. However, there are mistakes people make when they try do-it-yourself estate planning.

Here are some issues with do-it-yourself that estate planning attorneys regularly see:

You need to know what to ask. If you’re trying to complete a specific form, you may be able to do it on your own. However, the challenge is sometimes not knowing what to ask. If you want a more comprehensive end-of-life plan and aren’t sure about what you need in addition to a will, work with an experienced estate planning attorney. If you want to cover everything, and are not sure what everything is, that’s why you see them.

More complex issues require professional help. Take a more holistic look at your estate plan and look at estate planning, tax planning and financial planning together, since they’re all interrelated. If you only look at one of these areas at a time, you may create complications in another. This could unintentionally increase your expenses or taxes. Your situation might also include special issues or circumstances. A do-it-yourself website might not be able to tell you how to account for your specific situation in the best possible way. It will just give you a blanket list, and it will all be cookie cutter. You won’t have the individual attention to your goals and priorities you get by sitting down and talking to an experienced estate planning attorney.

Estate laws vary from state to state. Every state may have different rules for estate planning, such as for powers of attorney or a health care proxy. There are also 17 states and the District of Columbia that tax your estate, inheritance, or both. These tax laws can impact your estate planning. Eleven states and DC only have an estate tax (CT, HI, IL, ME, MA, MN, NY, OR, RI, VT and WA). Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have only an inheritance tax. Maryland has both an inheritance tax and an estate tax.

Setting up health care directives and making end-of-life decisions can be very involved. It’s too important to try to do it yourself. If you make a mistake, it could impact the ability of your family to take care of financial expenses or manage health care issues. Don’t do it yourself.

Reference: US News & World Report (July 5, 2021) “6 Common Myths About Estate Planning”

caring for a loved one

Caring for a Loved One from a Distance

Trying to coordinate care from a distance becomes a challenge for many, especially since as many as 80% of caregivers are working. Add COVID-19 into the mix, and the situation becomes even more difficult, reports the article “When your parent is far away and you are trying to care for them” from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The starting point is to have the person you are caring for give you legal authorization to act on their behalf with a Power of Attorney for financial affairs and a Health Care Directive that gives you authority to receive health information under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). It is HIPAA that addresses the use, disclosure and protection of sensitive patient information.

Next, have a conversation about their finances. Find out where all of their important documents are, including insurance policies (long-term care, health, life, auto, home), Social Security and Medicare cards. You’ll want to know where their tax documents are, which will provide you with information on retirement accounts, bank accounts and investments.

Gather up family documents, including birth, death, and marriage certificates. Make sure your loved one has completed their estate planning, including a last will and testament.

Put all of this information into a binder, so you have access to it easily.

Because you are far from your loved one, you may want to set up a care plan. What kind of care do they have in place right now, and what do you anticipate they may need in the near future? There should also be a contingency plan for emergencies, which seem to occur when they are least expected.

Find a geriatric care manager or a social worker who can do a needs assessment and help coordinate services, including shopping for groceries, medication administration and help with basic activities of daily living, including bathing, toileting, getting in and out of bed, eating and dressing.

If possible, develop a list of neighbors, friends or fellow worshippers who might create a local support system. If you are not able to visit with any degree of frequency, find a way to see your loved ones on a regular basis through video calls. It is impossible to accurately assess a person’s well-being, without being able to see them. In the past, dramatic changes weren’t revealed until family members made a trip. Today, you’ll be able to see your loved one using technology.

You may need to purchase a smartphone or a tablet, but it will be worth the investment. A medical alert system will provide further peace of mind for all concerned. Regular conference calls with caregivers and your loved one will keep everyone in touch.

Caring from a distance is difficult, but a well-thought out plan and preparing for all situations will make your loved one safer.

Reference: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Sep. 28, 2020) “When your parent is far away and you are trying to care for them”

estate plan check up

A Non-Medical Check Up – For Your Estate Plan

An estate plan isn’t just for you—it’s for those you love. It should include a will and possibly, trusts, a power of attorney for financial affairs and a health care directive. As many as 60% of all Americans don’t have a will. However, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted for everyone the need to have those documents. For those who have an estate plan, the need for a tune-up has become very clear, says the article “Time for a non-medical checkup? Review your will” from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

With any significant change in your life, a review of your estate plan is in order. Keep in mind that none of your estate planning documents are written in stone. They should be changed when your life does. COVID-19 has also changed many of our lives. Let’s take a look at how.

Has anyone you named as a beneficiary died, or become estranged from you? Will everyone who is a beneficiary in your current estate plan still receive what you had wanted them to receive? Are there new people in your life, family members or otherwise, with whom you want to share your legacy?

The same applies to the person you selected as your executor. As you have aged over the years, so have they. Are they still alive? Are they still geographically available to serve as an executor? Do they still want to take on the responsibilities that come with this role? Family members or trusted friends move, marry, or make other changes in their lives that could cause you to change your mind about their role.

Over time, you may want to change your wishes for your children, or other beneficiaries. Maybe ten years ago you wanted to give everyone an equal share of an inheritance, but perhaps circumstances have changed. Maybe one child has had career success and is a high-income earner, while another child is working for a non-profit and barely getting by. Do you want to give them the same share?

Here’s another thought—if your children have become young adults (in the wink of an eye!), do you want them to receive a large inheritance when they are young adults, or would you want to have some control over when they inherit? Some people stagger inheritances through the use of trusts, and let their children receive significant funds, when they reach certain ages, accomplishments or milestones.

Have you or your children been divorced, since your estate plan was last reviewed? In that case, you really need to get that appointment with an estate planning attorney! Do you want your prior spouse to have the same inheritance you did when you were happily married? If your children are married to people you aren’t sure about, or if they are divorced, do you want to use estate planning to protect their inheritance? That is another function of estate planning.

Taking out your estate plan and reviewing it is always a good idea. There may be no need for any changes—or you may need to do a major overhaul. Either way, it is better to know what needs to be done and take care of it, especially during a times like the one we are experiencing right now.

Reference: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 27, 2020) “Time for a non-medical checkup? Review your will”

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