Here are Your Next Steps
If the COVID-19 Pandemic and ensuing shutdowns taught us anything, it’s that life and our plans can change fast. In 2020, some of us learned, far too well, that having no plans in place can result in numerous unintended consequences for ourselves and our families when the unexpected occurs.
In its 2021 Wills and Estate Planning Study, Caring.com, a nationwide organization dedicated to helping millions of American seniors and their caregivers make better decisions concerning senior care products and services, found, somewhat amazingly, that adults 35 and up are less likely to have a will now than they were in 2020, while younger adults are 63% more likely to have one. It seems younger adults were motivated by the pandemic to begin estate planning more than their older counterparts were. In fact, almost 50% of all young adults, 18 to 34, reported that COVID-19 prompted them to “take further steps in the estate planning process.”
Were you one of them?
“For many young families, COVID-19 made the need for estate planning very real. It opened eyes,” says Shoup Legal’s Andrea Shoup, an Estate Planning Attorney and certified specialist by the California State bar in Trust and Probate Law. “Pre-pandemic, it often took the birth of a child or a health issue to make younger adults realize, ‘maybe I’m not too young to be thinking of an estate plan.’ The pandemic changed all that. It made 20- and 30-somethings realize you’re never too young to prepare.”
Of course, planning and doing are two different things. So, if you’re a young adult, where should you start?
Estate plans aren’t just for older adults with a lot of assets. Sure, the more you have the more complicated your estate plan becomes, but the unthinkable can happen at any time. Did you know that when children become legal adults (age 18), parents can no longer make health care decisions for them, including making doctor or dental appointments?
Thus, if you’re a young adult, a first and very important step is to name the person you want to make health care and financial decisions for you should you become unable to do so yourself. This is done through what is called a Durable Power of Attorney, which gives a named party the authority to act on your behalf concerning various financial, legal, and tax matters; and a Health Care Proxy, which appoints someone to make medical decisions for you if you can no longer make the decisions for yourself or if you are unable to communicate those decisions.
A Living Will is also critical for letting your health care proxy and doctors know how you want end-of-life decisions handled should you succumb to disease or injury and are on life support or in an irreversible, permanent vegetative state.
Next comes your Will. You may know that a Will is critical for detailing how you want your assets and possessions distributed after you die. But did you know your Will can also name a guardian, the person (or persons) you want to care for your children should neither parent be available?
Living Trusts can also be important for keeping assets in a trust for minors until they reach a certain age or for pre-determining how inheritance is handled and how benefits should be preserved for any of your children with special needs.
“Estate planning is tricky business, but NOT having an estate plan is even trickier,” Andrea explains. “When there’s no plan in place and someone becomes incapacitated or worse, the court steps in and designates another person to act for you because you can’t act for yourself. It’s a lengthy, public, uncertain, and costly process. Proper estate planning helps avoid all of that.”
In addition, regardless of your age, if you have a family, you need to plan for the unexpected accident or health emergency, and you need to keep your plans up-to-date throughout your lifetime by revisiting them every three years or whenever a birth, death, marriage, divorce, move, significant property purchase or sale, or other life event takes place.
If you’re not sure where to turn or what your next step should be, that’s OK. The attorneys at Shoup Legal, A Professional Law Corporation, are experts at estate planning and helping people of all ages secure their assets and protect their heirs. Contact us today at 951-445-4114 or through www.ShoupLegal.com to discuss your unique situation.