There is a common myth that estate planning is only for the elderly or the wealthy; maybe even only the elderly and wealthy. This myth shows that few really know what estate planning involves. Here is a hint: it's more than wills.
- Do you own anything? Then you need an estate plan.
Although the word "estate" sounds formal, an estate is simply what you own. Most, if not all, people own something that they want to go to a specific person when they pass away. Whether that is a sentimental token, a family heirloom, a photo, or a pet, you probably have at least one item that you want to go to someone in particular. It does not matter the monetary value of that item, you have the right to choose where that item goes. The problem is that if you do not have a plan for the stuff that you own, no matter how much or little you own, the laws of your state will determine where that property goes. If you are single and childless, that probably means your parents will suddenly own everything to which you lay claim. More importantly, if you have children, I'm sure you want to be the one to choose who would be the guardian of your children, rather than the State of Tennessee choosing for you.
- Estate planning is more than wills.
How will anyone know your healthcare wishes if you are not able to communicate them? Who do you want making healthcare decisions for you if you are not able to do so? Who will keep up with your financial matters if you are not able to do so? All of these questions are answered in a comprehensive estate plan. For example, in a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare you are able to choose a person that you would like to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot. It also allows you to name a person (or persons) who will have access to your medical documents if you are hospitalized and unable to give the hospital permission. Similarly, a Living Will allows you to put your wishes for medical treatment in writing so that there are no questions if you are unable to communicate them. For financial and other matters, you can create a Durable General Power of Attorney to designate a person to sign on your behalf in financial matters.
For better or worse, life is uncertain at any age. Have a plan in place.
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