“I hope I die before I get old.” — The Who’s “My Generation”
Most people, especially younger folks, don’t want to think about what happens after they die. It’s unpleasant, after all. Death seems unfathomable for someone in their 20s and 30s. And as people are getting married and starting families later than previous generations, some Gen Y and Gen Z”ers might think estate planning is simply not for them. Wrong!
The unimaginable can and does happen every day. Just consider that COVID-19 affects younger people at an alarming rate. While most will recover without serious consequences, some will not survive the deadly virus. While a family is worried about making funeral arrangements and is consumed with mourning after a death, the last thing they should be worried about is how to settle a loved one’s financial affairs. Yikes! That’s why you need to think ahead now so that your friends and family aren’t inconvenienced — or worse, at odds — in their darkest hour.
You might have heard the term “estate planning” in the context of legal matters. In practical terms, your estate is comprised of all your assets— your car, home, other real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, heirlooms, etc. No matter how large or seemingly insignificant, everyone has an estate as the law sees it. Speaking of the law, an attorney familiar with these matters can help you navigate all the intricacies of drafting a will and ensuring nothing is left to chance.
Estate planning at the very basic level should address the following areas and considerations:
1. Who will inherit your stuff? Maybe you don’t think it matters who gets your flat-screen TV or your designer watch, but it does. No one wants to imagine their family and friends sparring over their worldly possessions. Estate planning can help ease some of the tension in the event of your premature death. A will is a legal document spelling out how an individual’s property and affairs are to be transferred and managed after death. A will can also serve to declare who you wish to become the guardian for any minor children or dependents. Any party designated to receive any of your property is referred to a “beneficiary.”
2. How will loved ones access your digital and financial assets? It’s a different world than it was even 20 yers ago. The internet has changed so much with respect to the law, including estate planning. In the event of your death, your loved ones should be able to login and shut down your social media accounts. With this in mind, make sure you keep a list of account credentials and grant secure access to this information to someone or a group of people whom you trust with these matters. The same goes for your bank accounts.
3. Who is the beneficiary of your 401(K) or retirement plan? At this point in your life, maybe you don’t think your nest egg is sizable enough to necessitate beneficiaries. But know that designating a legal beneficiary can prevent a time consuming and cumbersome process, because of probate. Probate is the legal process through which upon death, a person’s estate is properly distributed to heirs, if that applies. Plus, designated beneficiaries and any debt owed to creditors is paid off. In general, probate property is distributed according to the decedent’s last will and testament, if there is one —or according to state law if no will exists.
4. Do you have a plan for what happens if you are disabled? Death isn’t the only uncomfortable scenario to consider when engaging in estate planning. Consider the fact that an accident or illness could impair your ability to make decisions about your health, medical care or assets. In such an event, you need to have determined who has power of attorney and who can act as your health care proxy. These two legal documents could save your family some serious headaches if there comes a time when you can’t speak for yourself about your medical care.
The takeaway? We all want to believe that we will live long, healthy lives, retire someplace warm and see our children and grandchildren thrive. That’s why the most selfless thing you can do is get your ducks in a row now so that there are no doubts about your wishes in the event of your untimely demise or threatening disability.
Peace of mind starts here. An experienced estate lawyer knows how to act in your best interest. Take the time to find and hire a qualified estate planning attorney in your area. In the long run, you and your family will be glad you did. The investment will pay for itself. Don’t wait for “some day” to safeguard your legacy. Give us a call at (801) 432-8682and start the process today — and breathe a sigh of relief!