While estate planning may sound like an activity reserved for the baby boomer generation, even Millennials can get in on the fun! Further, estate planning is not only for people with ample assets—planning for your future can extend to healthcare decisions and even your Facebook account. Of course, thinking about death—especially one’s own—is hard, but there are many benefits to be reaped from laying out a few guidelines for your loved ones.
To begin, estate planning at a young age may not involve complex financial considerations, but there are two key areas to focus on: healthcare and personal property.
First, once you turn 18 years old, family members no longer have the legal right to access your medical records, and should you become incapacitated, your family would not be able to speak to your doctors or make medical decisions on your behalf. Estate planning ensures that in the event of your incapacitation, your health is taken care of according to your wishes and by people you trust—
1) Advanced Healthcare Directive: A legal document in which you detail what medical actions should be taken if you are incapacitated or unable to make decisions on your own. This document can be used to record your preference (or not) for a “do not resuscitate” order.
2) Durable Power of Attorney: A legal document which, should you become incapacitated, gives power to a person of your choosing to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf. A durable power of attorney works in conjunction with an advanced healthcare directive to ensure that your health preferences are understood and heeded.
3) HIPPA Release Form: This form allows people listed on your advanced healthcare directive to access your medical records. Access to your records makes it easier for your designated caregivers to make informed decisions regarding your health.
Second, you may not have a lot of assets, but most likely, you do have some treasured possessions. To prevent your assets from being waylaid by intestacy (in which state laws determine how your property is distributed), consider making a will or trust—
4) Wills and Trusts: A will and/or trust details to where and to whom your assets will go after your death. While you may be content to let intestacy laws distribute your estate, creating a will or trust can streamline the process and assure your relatives that they are honoring your true wishes. Importantly, besides money, you should consider other cherished aspects of your estate. First, your pet—who will take care of your beloved fur friend? Second, consider family heirlooms passed down to you through grandma and grandpa—a will or trust ensures that those items fall into the right hands. Third, do you want to allocate any assets to a significant other? If you and your partner are not married, he or she is not entitled to any of your assets and will likely receive nothing through intestacy either. Whether you want to leave money or possessions—valuable or sentimental—a will or trust ensures your significant other receives a piece of your estate.
5) Digital Assets: Social media accounts and digital files need postmortem management, especially if you would like your family to shut down your various online accounts. Federal law does not require that websites permanently delete the account of a deceased user. Therefore, designating a digital “executor” and creating an inventory (with updated usernames and passwords) of your online accounts that details what you would like done with them can ensure your online presence is handled according to your wishes.
Death is a difficult subject, but estate planning ensures that your family is not left without direction for how your final wishes should be carried out. Therefore, if you are interested in learning more about estate planning, please contact the experienced attorneys at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri. We can help determine what documents would best safeguard your assets and/or your medical wishes.
Lastly, please remember that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.