Young People Should Have an Estate Plan • Madrid Law Group, Anaheim Hills, CA
“Over the last few months I have been reading stories of the tragic deaths of young people…. These tragedies also make people in the financial planning industry re-confirm long held beliefs about the need for an estate plan for someone young and single. An estate plan is simply giving you a voice as to what you want done in the event you are not around to speak. An estate plan gives direction to those who are left behind as to how to handle things in the way you would want them to be handled….” Forbes.com
Young people often think they are either too young or have too little assets to need an estate plan. They also believe they cannot afford an estate plan. This could not be further from the truth. For a single, young person with assets under $150,000, oftentimes a Will combined with healthcare and financial powers of attorney and an advance health care directive will provide them with a sufficient, affordable and effective estate plan at this point in their lives.
So just what is a modest estate plan able to accomplish for a young person?
You can specify how you want to be treated if you become incapacitated or are unable to participate in your medical care
With an advance health care directive you get to specify the extent of life sustaining treatment you want to receive in the event you are in a terminal medical situation or permanently unconscious and cannot speak for yourself. For example, you can decide whether you want to be kept on life support if you have no chance of ever coming out of a coma.
With a health care power of attorney, if you are not in an end of life situation but unable to communicate, you can designate an agent to make medical decisions for you instead of leaving those decisions up to strangers or leaving them to guess about what you would have wanted.
You choose what happens with your social media accounts when you can no longer do so
Social media accounts are considered property. You can specify an agent in a financial power of attorney who is to take responsibility for your social media accounts and what is to be done with them in the event you are unable to make those decisions during life. With a Will you can specify who takes control of your social media accounts and what you would like done with them after death. In the absence of proper estate planning, there have been numerous instances in which well intentioned family members or friends have taken control of someone else’s social media account and shared private information or posted things the original owner of the account would never have wanted or which caused unnecessary anguish to loved ones.
You choose what happens to your personal effects.
Even though they may be of little monetary value, those photographs, high school yearbooks and other mementos may be of great sentimental value to your loved ones. By choosing who gets what in your Will you can make sure your mementos go to the right person and avoid disputes between divorced parents and others. On the other hand, you may have photographs; a personal journal or other items you want destroyed or discarded. With a Will you can choose what you want to happen to those items of property.
Pets are also personal property. Who do you want to care for your pets if you cannot?
With a Will you get to choose what happens to your personal property including your pets when you die.
If you are a young person without an estate plan, take steps now to put an estate plan in place just in case the unexpected happens to you. I hope you never need it.
Priscilla A. Madrid is an elder law and estate planning attorney located in Anaheim Hills, California