Have you ever found yourself saying, "I'm not old enough to even think about making a will or an estate plan?" If so, you're not alone. Many people believe that an estate plan is only for people reaching retirement age or those who have a substantial amount of assets that need to be accounted for upon their death. This isn't true, though.
Estate plans can be incredibly useful and beneficial tools for just about everyone, regardless of how large or small you think your estate may be. They are also customizable and can be updated at any point during your life.
Estate Planning By The Decade
Making a plan in your 20s
While 20 may seem too young to begin considering an estate plan, this is actually the perfect time to start because most 20-year-olds are just starting to earn more money and save or invest in their future. Unless you want the state to decide the fate of these assets, an estate plan is needed.
While an estate plan may be nothing more than a will to begin with at this age, remember that it can always be added to or updated to account for any major life events or changes that come down the road.
Making a plan in your 30s
Some refer to this decade as another perfect time to start considering an estate plan because by this point, most people have accumulated enough assets to start worrying about in the event the worst should happen. Many people at this point have spouses and/or have children they want to provide for in the unexpected event of a serious illness or death.
By this time in a person's life, an estate plan containing just a will may see the addition of a living will or a trust. An individual may want to establish a guardianship for their minor children or appoint a power of attorney to manage finances in the event of incapacitation. This is all possible with help from an attorney.
Making a plan in your 40s
If you didn't start your estate plan in either of the two previous decades, this is definitely the time as your assets - as well as your family - have likely grown or changed significantly. In addition to some of the more basic estate planning documents, now is a good time to consider other things that can affect an estate plan, including: the health of your retirement plan and the beneficiaries listed on your estate and insurance plans.
Making a plan in your 50s
By this time, most people have an estate plan. But if you are not one of these people, talk to an attorney about what documents would be best for this stage of your life. Whether you just need a simple will or something more complex, you should definitely be considering: who you would like your assets to go to, who you want to take care of your finances and what kind of medical care you would like to receive in the event of serious illness or incapacitation.
Now is also a good time to update an existing estate plan to account for all major events in your life, which may include marriage, divorce, the birth of children or the death of an intended beneficiary.