It doesn't matter how old you are or how little you have, an estate plan is one of those things that you really need to consider once you cross the threshold from childhood into adulthood.
Why? What's so important about having one?
The answer basically comes down to a few simple facts that not everyone -- especially those new to the word of adult decision-making -- knows:
- Estate plans aren't just for the old, sick or wealthy.
- Estate plans don't just control what happens to your body and your property once you die. They also control what happens to your body and your property if you're even briefly incapacitated.
What that means is that even if you're a healthy, active 18-year-old, you could be hit by a car on your way to class or work in the morning and thrown into a coma.
While you are in that coma, unless you have an estate plan in place, nobody has the automatic authority to do anything on your behalf, including:
- Access your bank account and pay your rent so that you don't run the risk of eviction
- File documents on your behalf that will allow you to collect any private or government benefits available to you while you aren't working -- or even deposit your last paycheck
- Access your credit card accounts to pay them and keep your credit on solid footing
- Legally take possession of any pets you have and arrange for their care
A basic estate plan usually includes a power of attorney for finances -- which will designate someone of your choosing to keep these things handled while you hopefully recover.
Estate plans also generally include a power of attorney for health care. That designates someone specific to be in charge of your medical decisions if you can't make them.
If you don't relish the idea of being on life support for years, you may want to choose a friend or relative who supports your views. Otherwise, your next of kin or a hospital administrator will make the decisions about your care.
Hopefully, none of your basic estate planning documents will be of any use to you for years to come -- but if any of the things above concern you, take steps now to secure your future.
Source: FindLaw, "What is Estate Planning?," accessed Jan. 05, 2018