When we think of estate planning, we tend to imagine older people who are looking at the end of their life. Elderly people should absolutely plan for the future, but estate planning is not reserved exclusively for them. Any adult of any age, socioeconomic status, or marital status should consider what they are leaving behind. You should begin estate planning now.
What Is Estate Planning?
The totality of one’s property is known as their estate. In a technical sense, anyone who owns any property has an estate. Estate planning is the process of deciding what happens to your assets after you die. It is also a plan for what to do if you become incapacitated, unable to care for or make decisions for yourself. In Massachusetts, the two major components of estate planning are a will and power of attorney.
Put simply, a will is a document that outlines what happens to your property after you die. In theory, you can leave any specific item to whomever you choose. If you want to leave a sentimental object of no monetary value to a best friend, you should be able to do so.
Without a will, your assets go into intestate succession. The laws on this process vary from state to state, but essentially, assets are divided among your closest family members. Typically, the spouse and children are given top priority, with other family members prioritized along the chain. For example, if you have no spouse, the next person in line will likely be your parents, then your siblings if you have no parents, and so forth. When there are no close family members available, your assets will likely belong to the state.
Power of Attorney
A will is used for your death; power of attorney is used when you are still alive. If sickness or injury renders you incapable of caring for yourself, you will need someone who can make choices for you, and you do not want that to be the state.
Power of attorney puts major decisions in the hands of others. Those decisions can be financial or healthcare-related.
A financial power of attorney allows someone to make decisions concerning your money. They can buy or sell property in your name; they can sue on your behalf; they can make decisions on investments, pay your bills, etc. When you carefully plan your estate in advance, you can give this power to someone you trust, knowing that your assets will be in good hands.
Similarly, you may need someone who can make healthcare choices for you. A durable power of attorney can name a healthcare proxy. This person will make decisions regarding your prescriptions, surgeries, etc.
Like a will, power of attorney can be altered over time. As you grow older, your relationships can change. You may find that you no longer want Jenny to have power of attorney, and you’d rather give it to Jimmy. Perhaps the person you elect suffers a trauma of their own, and they are no longer capable of making those decisions. Whatever the case, powers of attorney are flexible and changeable.
Why You Should Plan Your Estate Now
You Have Valuable Assets
There is no age bracket for riches. Young and old alike can be affluent, and when you have a large net worth, you want to protect it. Valuable assets, however, are not restricted to large incomes or savings accounts. Value comes in many forms. Perhaps you have a treasured comic book collection. Maybe you have a large vinyl record collection, where you’ve amassed music from every era. Even if you never plan to sell your treasures, they are a prized part of who you are. You likely have a friend or family member who would be honored to receive your collection when you are gone. With a will, you can pass any object to any loved one, family or friend.
You Have Health Risks
If you are living with chronic illness, you should consider your future and the futures of those you love. Even when your health problems are under control or in remission, you are at a higher risk of future issues, and you need a well-planned estate.
Health risks are not always medical illnesses. Perhaps you have a risky job. Truck drivers, construction workers, and the like have a higher likelihood of injury, illness, and death due to the nature of their work. They should consider this fact when thinking about the future. Maybe you have a low-risk job, but you indulge in high-risk activities. You might be a passionate skateboarder, snowboarder, or motorcycle rider. There is nothing wrong with these activities, but you should remain aware of how they can affect your future.
Ultimately, estate planning is for everyone, and you should do it now. Even if you live a modest life, you should plan for your future now while you can.
At Percy Law Group, PC, we have years of experience helping people navigate the complexities of estate planning. Call us today at (508) 206-9900, or contact us online. Together, we can start the estate planning process now, securing your future.