An endemic problem is the failure of a considerable segment of the population to undertake appropriate financial, retirement, and estate planning. Of this trio of important endeavors, estate planning tends to get overlooked or avoided the most. On some level, avoiding estate planning is perfectly understandable. Who wants to think of dying? Nonetheless, the starkest reality about life is that it’s limited – you will die. Understanding these matters, an understandable, fair question is when should you begin to estate plan?

Checklist for When to Start Estate Planning

  • Are you an adult living on your own?

If you answered yes to this question, the time has arrived to start estate planning.

Estate Planning Is More Than Writing a Will

When it comes to estate planning, you need to think of it from a broad perspective. You need to understand that estate planning is more than just writing a will. Rather, consider estate planning a comprehensive process that includes:

  • Addressing your assets
  • Addressing your health
  • Addressing your final disposition

Addressing Your Assets

Of course, a primary element of estate planning is addressing issues surrounding your assets and what will happen following your death. In his regard, there are a pair of primary areas of concern that need to be addressed via estate planning when it comes to your assets. First, you need to ascertain what vehicle or vehicles will be utilized to convey your assets elsewhere when you pass on. Second, you need to decide where your assets will go following your passing.

The two primary tools utilized to deal with the disposition of your assets following death are a last will and testament and a trust, or a combination of both. With that said, other strategies can be employed as part of a comprehensive estate planning effort to deal with asset disposition after you pass on. For example, you might consider adding a person to the deed to real estate and provide them with what technically is known as a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship following your death.

When you are working and begin to accumulate assets, you will want to take a close look at commencing estate planning. This becomes more important when you marry and have children as well as you begin to accumulate a more significant amount of assets.

Addressing Your Health

The estate planning process isn’t limited to dealing with financial issues. Another matter that oftentimes is dealt with as part of comprehensive estate planning is addressing issues surrounding health and medical decision making. This element of the estate planning process typically involves the creation of what commonly is called a living will as well as durable power of attorney for health care. A living will instrument sets forth what extraordinary measures, if any, you want utilized if you become seriously ill or injured and can’t make these decisions for yourself.

A durable power of attorney designates the individual you want to make healthcare and medical decisions for you when you are incapable of doing so yourself. You need to be sure that this type of power of attorney in fact is “durable.” Durable means that it is in effect when you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

The fact is that once you are an adult, it is never too early to have a living will and a durable power of attorney. Frankly, you need to make plans in this regard as if you might need these instruments today. 

Addressing Your Final Disposition

Finally, when undertaking estate planning, you may also want to address issues surrounding your funeral and burial or cremation. You don’t have to include these types of directives in a last will and testament. You are best served putting them in writing, however, and not merely verbalizing them to one person or another.

As is the case with getting a living will and durable power of attorney for healthcare, once you are an adult, you are wise to be proactive and set forth what you desire in the way of a funeral and final disposition of your remains.

Hire a Pro

Estate planning is a highly complicated endeavor. The last thing that you want to have happen is for mistakes to be made in the estate planning process which results in your wishes and desires not being able to be carried out when you die. The reality is that if a person without a background in estate planning and probate law attempts to undertake these tasks on his or her own, mistakes

As you contemplate taking on estate planning, you truly do need to seriously consider engaging the services of a professional. A probate lawyer will arrange an initial consultation with you, typically at no cost or obligation to you. In such a consultation, you can obtain an evaluation by a trained professional about what course is advisable when it comes to estate planning. What do I Have to do as an Executor of an Estate?