Most millennials and Generation Y-ers have the common misconception that they do not need an estate plan. Why would an unmarried person, who rents and does not own their residence, and who may not have substantial assets, need one? A trip abroad, a new car, or even the latest smartphone may be a more exciting way to spend money, but it bears repeating-everyone needs an estate plan.
You Are Not Invincible
An estate plan will not help predict the future. But, it can make that unpredictable future easier to bear with some simple planning. For example, if you become incapacitated, you will likely be legally (and possibly physically) prevented from creating or revising an estate plan, and the courts may appoint someone as your guardian to dictate the disposition of your assets at your death. At a minimum, the execution of powers of attorney and a Last Will and Testament can help ease the burden on your loved ones and ensure the direction of your assets in the manner you wish.
Retain your Autonomy and Control
Powers of Attorney for Property and Powers of Attorney for Healthcare allow you to name someone (an “agent”) to handle your financial affairs and make medical decisions for you. Illinois Powers of Attorney for Health Care now allow the principal to make decisions like those featured in a Living Will, such as end of life decisions and organ donation. Powers of Attorney also allow you to decide how and when you would like your agent to make these decisions.
Clients are often unaware that if they become incapacitated without a Power of Attorney for Health Care in place, doctors are typically required to act to keep them alive. Moreover, critical decisions such as medical treatments and who you wish to make these decisions for you, default to certain people under state law – people you may not want to be involved in the decision-making process. It is also worth noting that without a Power of Attorney for Health Care, family members authorized to act under state law may disagree about which actions to take on your behalf. When this occurs, a judge will ultimately make the decision after considering evidence in an adversarial proceeding. The court process is expensive, stressful, and can drag on for months.
Additionally, just because you have debt (perhaps student loans) does not mean you do not need an estate plan. Without a Last Will, all of your assets and prized possessions will be distributed to your family members in accordance with state law. This means that your immediate family is first in line to receive a part of your estate, even if you are estranged, or want to direct your money to close friends, a partner, or a charity. A Last Will allows you to expressly dictate your wishes, avoid contentious family arguments, and protect your intended beneficiaries.
Protect Your Loved Ones – Yes, Even Your Pets
If you have children or are planning on having children, the preparation of a Last Will & Testament provides guidance to the court when choosing a guardian for your child. Judges do not like having to choose a guardian for a child without the direction of a nominated family member or friend provided under a Last Will and Testament – after all, they did not know you, and do not know your family and friends. By providing a nomination for the guardian of your child under your Last Will, you give the Judge a foundation for his or her decision over who will ultimately be responsible for the care of your child.
Additionally, if ensuring the care and support your animal is important to you (and for a growing number of individuals, pets are considered a part of the family), your estate planning can name the individual or organization you wish to take care of your animal in the event you become incapacitated or pass away unexpectedly.
It’s Not Permanent Unless You Want It to Be
Your estate planning documents do not have to be final unless you want them to be.In fact, estate planning attorneys encourage clients to review or amend their estate plans every few years, to account for changes in the law, or a change in the client’s life.
While your attorney may not recommend any changes or revisions to your documents during a review, most estate planning attorneys will recommend you have your estate plan reviewed approximately every five years.
The sooner you begin planning, the less you will have to do in the future.
This document is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed legal professional in a particular case or circumstance.
If you need assistance with a related matter, contact us.