You have probably heard how important it is to have an estate plan in place; however, you may also have assumed that you don’t really need one yet. After all, estate planning is only for older people with large estates right? Wrong. The truth is that it is never too soon to start estate planning and you are never too young, or too poor, to have an estate plan in place. Estate planning isn’t only about deciding who will receive your estate assets when you are gone. Estate planning can, and should, accomplish a wide range of additional goals and objectives – goals and objectives that have nothing to do with how old you are or how much money you have in the bank. So when should you start estate planning? Now.
What Can an Estate Plan Do for Me?
A basic estate plan typically starts with a Last Will and Testament. Like many people, you may be under the impression that you need to have significant assets or high value possessions before a Will is necessary. This simply is not the case. Even if you have yet to amass valuable assets in terms of monetary value, you likely have assets that mean something to you. As such, you likely care what happens to them when you die. For example, if you have family heirlooms in your possession you probably want those heirlooms to be passed down to a specific individual. When you create a Will you can make sure they are passed down to that person. Likewise, you may have sentimental items that you have promised to someone, such as a doll collection you promised to a favorite niece or a jewelry collection to a best friend. The only way to ensure that these promises are fulfilled is to create a Will and turn those promises into gifts in the Will.
A comprehensive estate plan, however, consists of more than just a Will and accomplishes more than simply deciding who will receive the assets you have at the time of your death. For example, incapacity planning is another common estate planning component that should be part of everyone’s estate plan. Why? Because incapacity can happen to anyone at any time. Incapacity doesn’t only happen when you reach retirement age. Statistically speaking you stand a one in five chance of suffering a period of incapacity prior to reaching age 65 sufficient to require you to spend time in a long-term care facility. A tragic car accident, a severe illness, or even a debilitating workplace accident could all render you incapacitated at any age. If that happens, who will have control over your assets? Who will make medical decisions for you? Who will decide where you live and what doctors treat you? If you don’t have an incapacity plan in place the answers to these questions may lie in the hands of a judge – a judge who doesn’t know you and has no idea what your preferences would be.
There are numerous other goals and objectives that may also apply to you and your life that can be incorporated into your estate plan, including:
- Probate avoidance
- Retirement planning
- Pet planning
- Asset protection
- Tax avoidance
- Special needs planning
- Business succession planning
- Medicaid planning
As you can see, the time to start estate planning is now. It is not necessary for you to have valuable and/or complex assets in order to care what happens to your assets when you die. Moreover, a comprehensive estate plan allows you to do much more than just decide what happens to your assets. Your estate plan can help you protect and grow the assets you do have now, protect them and you when you are older, and arrange for your estate to be passed down to loved ones when you are gone. Regardless of your age, marital status, or net worth, the time to get started with your estate plan is now.
For additional information, please download our fee report “Creating a Lasting Legacy: The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things.” If you have additional questions or concerns regarding Medicaid planning, or would like to get started with your plan, contact the experienced New Hampshire estate planning attorneys at Debruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.