Many people associate estate planning with the elderly. Even some attorneys have classified this type of legal work as "elder law." I've had younger clients talk about their parent's and grandparent's estate plans, but they admit that they do not have one of their own. In truth, estate planning isn't just a legal service for the older generation. It is something that anyone who owns property, or has children should consider. There are several reasons why a young adult should consider adopting an estate plan, but here are five, in no particular order of importance.
An Estate Plan Allows You To Exhibit Control Over the Distribution of Your Estate. Would you rather have an estate plan that provides your executor with detailed instructions for distributing your estate or do you want your estate to be distributed pursuant to a set of laws enacted by the state legislature? All states have descent and distribution laws. The Arkansas laws of descent and distribution have not been updated since 1969, well before many of this blog's readers were born. An estate plan allows you to circumvent the default distribution manner set forth by Arkansas law. In essence, an estate plan allows you to have complete control of who gets what, and when they will receive it.
A Good Estate Plan Will Save Your Family Money in the Long Run. An estate plan can help you avoid or minimize taxes and the expense of a probate. Even if a probate is required, a good estate plan will minimize the costs. Think of the estate plan as a roadmap to the distribution of your estate. A good plan can save substantial time and money if your executors and beneficiaries know exactly where you want your assets to go.
You Can Never Predict the Future, But You Can Prepare. Estate planning is easy to avoid, because of the uncomfortable nature of the subject matter. Discussing end of life decisions can be daunting and obviously, it is easier to just put it off. But, like any "plan", an estate plan can provide you security and comfort. An advanced health care directive (also known as a living will), for example, can be part of your estate plan, and will provide your doctors and caregivers with instructions on your care if you are unconscious and unable to directly communicate with them. Making these difficult decisions ahead of time will provide you and your family with peace of mind if a tragic event occurs.
An Estate Plan Can Protect Your Children. I advise clients to establish an estate plan early, especially while their children are young. For example, clients can establish a trust for a child's benefit and direct a fiduciary, selected by the client, to provide the children with the basic funds they will need for their health, education, and their general well-being. An estate plan can also facilitate the appointment of a guardian for children in the event both parents pass away before the children reach adulthood.
You Can Change Your Mind. Life will continue on after you establish your estate plan. Your children will get older and with age, their needs will change. Your personal circumstances and your assets may also change. Because of this, estate plans can be amended at any time to address life's unpredictable nature.
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