This is the sixth and final writing in a series regarding estate planning.
The writings have discussed that the goals of estate planning are to distribute assets at a person’s death the way she wants and efficiently (meaning with a minimal amount of effort, delay, taxes, fees, and other expenses) and to make sure that someone she knows and trusts will have the legal authority to take care of her if she cannot take care of herself anymore in the future for some reason.
The writings also discussed how wills, trusts, powers of attorney for financial management, powers of attorney for health care, and disclosure authorizations carry out those two goals. And they reviewed distribution at death language in detail.
So after all of that, who should have an estate plan?
Most likely the answer is you! Every adult 18 years old or older should have some type of estate plan documents in place.
One naturally thinks of estate planning for senior citizens. Death or lack of capacity due to heart attack, stroke, or dementia seem more relevant for senior citizens. Further, senior citizens have had more time to amass assets for distribution after their death.
Every person who is a senior citizen ought to have estate plan documents in place to handle these issues.
Often estate plan documents are more critical for the next generation in their 40s or 50s. By that age many people have already amassed substantial assets.
Further, someone in his 40s or 50s may still have minor children. Without estate plan documents containing proper language regarding distribution at death, a court guardianship proceeding may be required for each minor child. That would result in a great amount of effort, delay, fees, and other expenses that could be avoided with a trust.
Although heart attack, stroke, and dementia are less likely for someone in his 40s or 50s, they still are possible. Plus it is possible to die or become incapacitated in an accident while driving, cycling, skiing, swimming with sharks, jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle, etc.
Remember that, if a person does not have a properly setup trust, then the value of his assets may determine whether he will have a probate decedent’s estate court proceeding after his death. Based on California real estate values, owning even a single-family home in California almost guarantees that one will have a probate decedent’s estate court proceeding after his death.
If a person owns real estate in California and/or has minor children, then having estate plan documents in place would be a great benefit to her children in addition to benefitting her personally.
If one wants to leave assets to someone after his death and that person to receive the assets also receives government benefits that are based on financial need, then leaving assets to that person could terminate her government benefits. He can leave those assets to her to improve the quality of her life, while still allowing government benefits to pay for her necessities, by leaving the assets to her in a special needs trust.
Even a young adult college student with no substantial assets should have estate plan documents in place. A college student could become incapacitated in a sports accident, a car accident, etc. In that case, it would be critical for someone such as her parent to be able to make decisions for her through a power of attorney for financial management, a power of attorney for health care, and a disclosure authorization.
So now you can see that it is worthwhile for every adult to have some type of estate planning documents in place.