It is important to recognize the fact that estate planning is considered “death planning,” not something that you do for yourself. The thinking is you do it to provide for and protect your family when you are gone. When we say “for the most part” it is because there is an incapacity component to the comprehensive modern estate plan which could come into play when you are still alive. Think of it as “life planning.” It may be the most important reason to create an estate plan. If you were unable to make decisions for yourself due to incapacitation your estate plan can and should contain legally binding instructions that express your wishes regarding the use of artificial life support systems if you were to be in a terminal condition.
Many people have a strong opinion about this, and you can record it through the execution of a living will. This incapacity component is something that is quite relevant to people of all ages, not just the elderly. The reality is that younger adults are involved in debilitating accidents more frequently than older people. And you need to look no further than the Terri Schiavo case to find an instance of a young individual who fell into an incapacitated state due to a devastating illness (in her case it was cardiac arrest). She did not have an estate plan with advance health care directives in place, and the result was a bitterly contested legal battle between her husband and her parents.
In addition, if you are a young adult who is married it is likely that you are relying on the income that your spouse earns to maintain your standard of living. If you were to die suddenly the survivor would be placed in a difficult financial position at a devastating emotional time. For this reason it is important to have an estate plan in place that includes an income replacement vehicle. Income replacement becomes all the more important when you have children. And, of course, you must have a guardianship contingency so that a person of your choosing has been selected to care for your children should you and your spouse pass away together in an accident.
The truth is that estate planning is not strictly for the elderly because people of all ages pass away. This is a simple, irrefutable fact of life. So if you do not have an estate plan in place at present now would be a good time to fulfill this responsibility to ensure the well-being of your loved ones should the unthinkable take place.
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