Many people who would benefit from estate documents procrastinate about creating them to their own detriment. They may die with out-of-date documents or with no valid paperwork in place at all. These people will leave themselves and their family members at the mercy of state laws.
You certainly don’t want the legacy you leave behind when you die to reflect intestate succession laws rather than your values and your close relationships. How do you know it is time to start planning your estate?
You are unmarried and a legal adult
Even if you don’t think you have any property you need to designate to others, you may need an estate plan to protect yourself. As an adult without a spouse, you may not have anyone with a legal authority to choose what medical care you receive in the event of your incapacitation. You may want to create advanced directives and medical powers of attorney naming someone you trust to handle your medical and possibly financial matters.
You get married or have children
Both spouses and children have basic inheritance rights under state law if you die without documents in place. However, the desire to protect and provide for your spouse and children can be a powerful incentive to create a more robust estate plan and to review your life insurance as well.
You face a serious medical or legal issue
Whether you are about to begin treatment for cancer or face a divorce, you may recognize that your changing circumstances require that you plan ahead. From leaving clear instructions on medical wishes to protecting some of your property from creditor claims, major life events can be a good reason to reconsider your legacy and what protection you have in the event of an emergency.
The truth is that the best time to start estate planning is the earliest that you can begin the process after becoming an adult. Frequent updates to existing documents will help those who have created estate plans ensure they retain the appropriate legal protections throughout their lives.
Recognizing when it is time to start estate planning is half the battle when it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones from an uncertain future.