If you don’t think estate planning should concern you because you’re too young or don’t have enough wealth, think again.
Whether you are younger or older, have a lot of wealth or are building up to it, there are steps you can – and should – take right now to protect yourself and your loved ones. From the time you turn 18 to the time you retire and beyond, there are important steps you can take to ensure your affairs are always in order.
Estate Planning in Your Youth (18 & Early 20s)
When people turn 18, they become legal adults who are in charge of their own healthcare and financial decisions. Chances are you aren’t busting right out of the gate with a high-paying job, mortgage, and a family, so the estate planning concerns you have at this age are typically pretty simple. Unless you have preexisting conditions, you’re probably also in the prime of your life with few immediate health concerns.
Most people in their early 20s really only need the following in their estate plan:
- Healthcare Power of Attorney – In case you become so seriously injured or ill that you cannot communicate your wishes with your doctors, this document nominates someone to make your decisions for you.
- Financial Power of Attorney – This legal document allows you to assign someone you trust to make financial decisions on your behalf should you lack the capacity to communicate your wishes.
- A Basic Will – Chances are you won’t really need this document in your 20s as much as you will later on in life, but it doesn’t hurt to establish a foundation now for how you want your property to be divided among your loved ones. Most people revisit and adjust their estate plan throughout their lives, so having something in place doesn’t hurt.
Estate Planning When You Settle Down (20s- 30s)
A lot of significant changes happen for most people in their 20s-30s. They get married, have children, buy homes, and start businesses. They also begin to accrue more significant financial assets that are worth planning for.
Most people in their 30s will want to consider adding the following to their estate plan:
- A Will – If you already had a will in place, it’s time to make some adjustments. If not, you really need to consider getting one drafted as soon as possible. If necessary, you can also designate a guardian for your children in the event your spouse is unable to care for them.
- A Trust – If you want to ensure your property and assets are transferred to your loved ones without interference from probate, you want to consider establishing a trust. This important legal entity can be funded with nearly anything in your estate – bank and brokerage accounts, real estate, vehicles, and more. Funding property into a trust removes your personal ownership over it, which is how all trusts avoid probate. With a revocable living trust, you can assign yourself as a trustee and benefit from the property in the trust during your lifetime. When you die, a named co-trustee or successor trustee will oversee the distribution of property held in the trust among your named beneficiaries. There are many kinds of trusts, so consulting with an attorney is the best way you can become more aware of your options.
Estate Planning during Your Mid-Life (Right around Your 40s)
If you’ve reached your 40s and don’t have any estate planning documents established, now is a good time to get caught up.
You should probably also invest time in learning about your parents’ estate plan(s). These can be difficult conversations to have, but both of you may feel more comfortable knowing what’s involved in their estate plan. Remember: Estate plans are private, but they don’t have to be secret – especially if they concern specific family members who may be given an important role later on.
You should probably gather information such as the following:
- Do they have a will or trust with beneficiary designations established?
- How will medical decisions be made should be they become incapacitated?
- Do they have a long-term care plan or insurance policy in place?
Not only is it good for you to have a grasp of your parents’ estate plan for their sake, but knowing what they’ve done for themselves can even guide you toward future planning of your own.
Estate Planning in Your Retirement (Your 50s & 60s)
If you still don’t have a comprehensive estate plan fleshed out by the time you reach retirement age, don’t be too hard on yourself. The AARP cites that only as much as 58 percent of Baby Boomers (aged 53-71) have done estate planning. That said, not having a plan right now could place you and your loved ones in a difficult spot.
If you do have a plan in place, you should consider your options in long-term care planning, such as:
- How will you live off of your retirement income?
- How will you afford a nursing home?
- Do you ever intend to apply for Medicaid?
- Have you considered in-home care options?
The good news is that estate planning doesn’t have to be hard, and our attorneys at Kitzke & Canfield LLC work hard to simplify the process as much as possible. If you need help, just reach out to us online to schedule a consultation!
Estate Planning in Your Elder Years (Your 70s & Older)
Once you reach your 70s, you should have an estate plan in place that covers property division and end-of-life medical care. If you haven’t planned for your long-term care, you shouldn’t wait any longer – it may even be too late to find an affordable long-term care financial options. You can still qualify for Medicaid to afford a nursing home, but you may need to “spend down” your estate or place it in a Medicaid-approved trust.
Most people who reach these years also begin to think about their legacy and the impact they want to leave on the world. Charitable giving is one way you can ensure that your wealth can leave a positive and meaningful impact on causes and organizations you care about.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If you need to build an estate plan or expand upon your existing documents, reach out to our attorneys at Kitzke & Canfield LLC for help. We have more than 40 years of combined experience when it comes to providing legal services and solutions that help people like you make important decisions regarding their estates.
Learn more about what Kitzke & Canfield LLC can accomplish for you by scheduling an initial consultation with us. Get in touch by contacting us online or calling (262) 387-0706.