Estate planning is a process most often associated with older Americans. Planning for end-of-life care, sorting out financial priorities and generally preparing for one’s legal future are not tasks commonly associated with younger adults. However, estate planning is a largely misunderstood process. There are a host of legal tools available to adults of every age designed to ensure that one’s wishes are respected in case one becomes unexpectedly injured, ill or passes away. Although these subjects may be uncomfortable to contemplate, it is critically important that every individual who has reached the age of 18 considers at least a few essential planning tools. This process remains relevant even for millennials who have yet to have children or amass any significant assets.
Universally Relevant Estate Planning Tools
Even if you do not have any property yet to speak of, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney about drafting two fundamentally important estate planning documents as soon as you have become a legal adult. First, you will need to draft a health care directive and second, you will need to designate a power of attorney for medical decisions.
An advance health care directive (commonly referred to as a living will) allows individuals to explain what kinds of medical care and interventions they would and would not like to receive in the event that they are incapacitated by injury or illness and cannot express these wishes for themselves. Designating a trusted person as power of attorney for medical decisions will allow a specific individual to make any additional medical decisions on an individual’s behalf that are not expressly addressed within the healthcare directive (also in the event that the patient cannot make these decisions due to injury or illness). Every adult should take time to ensure that these documents are properly drafted and enforceable. Otherwise, one’s wishes may not be honored at a truly critical future moment in time.
Other Potentially Relevant Estate Planning Considerations
It is also important to speak with an attorney about designating beneficiaries for any employer-sponsored or privately purchased retirement plans, life insurance policies, etc. And even if you have not yet acquired any valuable property, you may want to draft an enforceable will so that any sentimental property you own will be transferred in accordance with your wishes in the event of your death.
Estate Planning Assistance Is Available
If you have reached the age of 18, you could significantly benefit from exploring certain estate planning tools that remain available to you. Even if you have no property interests to speak of yet, you should consider speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney about health care directives and power of attorney designations. If you have minor children, naming a guardian in the event of your premature death is also an important step to consider with urgent focus. None of us truly knows when we may have need of our estate plans, yet such a time will occur for everyone. As a result, it is generally a good idea to craft an estate plan as early in your adulthood as you can and to work with an estate planning lawyer to update that plan whenever doing so becomes necessary and/or appropriate.