One of the most basic questions that people have about estate planning is exactly when one should sit down with an estate planning attorney and put their plan in place. The correct answer is not etched in stone, but it could be argued that you should have a rudimentary estate plan in place as soon as you become an independent adult who is responsible for his or her own affairs.
Even if you have no assets to speak of, have no significant other, and are perfectly comfortable with your parents receiving anything you may leave behind, you should consider executing advance health care directives, a power of attorney for health care, and a power of attorney for financial matters. With these legal instruments you specify who you wish to handle financial matters if you are incapacitated. They also express your wishes with regard to the medical procedures you would accept and those you would prefer to deny if you were to become incapacitated and unable to make these decisions for yourself in real-time.
Choosing to make sure that you have a basic plan in place as a young single person is the responsible course of action. But once you’re married and have children and people are relying on you it really becomes a must. When you do the math and recognize that your family would be unable to maintain their quality of life if your income was to suddenly vanish, the need for adequate life insurance becomes clear. In addition, young married couples with children need to consider the matter of guardianship should they both perish in an accident while they are together.
The bottom line is that no one knows exactly when they’re going to pass away, and if you do so without leaving any instructions or making any financial provisions for your loved ones it is not you who will suffer. When you gamble and go through life without an estate plan you are putting the emotional and financial well-being of your loved ones at risk.