In a 2004 survey conducted by Lawyers.com
, the two most frequent reasons adult Americans cited for not having an estate plan were insufficient assets and not being old enough to need a plan. Sadly, those who hold these beliefs are greatly mistaken. With life's ups and downs comes the need for basic estate planning for both the young and old alike. Here are six estate planning tips for young singles and couples that can nonetheless be used by singles and couples of all ages.
1. Don't Rule Out a Prenuptial Agreement
If you are young and do not think that you need a prenuptial agreement
before getting married, think again. Many circumstances warrant at least considering a prenuptial agreement, including being involved in a family-owned business or owning your own business; having part of your paycheck stashed away in a 401(k) or other retirement plan; the possibility of inheriting assets from your family; owning a residence that will be used as the marital home; or marrying someone who has already accumulated a large amount of debt. A prenuptial agreement can protect what assets you currently have or significant assets that you expect to inherit, and can also protect you from your spouse-to-be's debts acquired before the marriage.
2. Make an Estate Plan for Medical Emergencies
Twenty-six year old Terri Schiavo of Florida certainly did not anticipate slipping into a coma in 1990 and then having her husband and parents fight over her medical care and ultimate wishes for the next 15 years. Planning for medical emergencies
is a must for everyone and should include the signing of two important legal documents called a Living Will
and an Advance Medical Directive
3. Make an Estate Plan for Financial Emergencies
If you are out of the country on business and your spouse is at home trying to sell the house, or if you are in an accident and expected to fully recover but will be in the hospital for a while, then you will need a Durable Power of Attorney
to allow your spouse or other person of your choice to manage your finances and sign legal documents on your behalf.
4. Make an Estate Plan for an Untimely Death
Planning for an untimely death is important, particularly if you are in a committed relationship and/or have young children. If you fail to make an estate plan, then the state where you live at the time of your death will make one for you and in most situations the plan will not be what you would have wanted had you taken the time to make your own plan. Aside from this, assets titled in your individual name will need to be probated to transfer them into your beneficiaries' names after you die. Having at least a basic Last Will and Testament
in place that puts someone in charge of settling your estate and names your preferred beneficiaries and a guardian for your minor children
will give your loved ones peace of mind during a difficult time.
5. Make an Estate Plan for Your Minor ChildrenEven if you do not think that you have enough money or property to need an estate plan, you will need to make a plan if you have minor children. If you do not, then control of the minor's inheritance will be taken over by a court-supervised guardian or conservator. Then, depending on the laws of the state where the minor lives, when the minor reaches the age of 18 or 21 all of the remaining guardianship funds will be turned over to the young adult, free and clear of any guidance or strings attached. Aside from this, if you and the other parent of your children both die while the children are still minors, then the children will become wards of the court until a judge can decide who the children should live with until they become adults.
6. Buy Term Life Insurance
When you are young, term life insurance is really cheap and can offer your family financial security if you were to die prematurely. The insurance proceeds can be used for things such as paying off your outstanding medical and credit card bills; paying off your mortgage; replacing your lost income; paying for your children's care and education; and/or paying for a live in nanny, day care or after school care. Term life insurance is also easy to buy these days with services like Intelliquote
. Or, if you are offered term life insurance at work, buy it.
Everyone Needs an Estate Plan
Estate planning is not just for older or wealthy people. Younger people, especially those with minor children, need to have a will and estate plan in place in order to give instructions to their loved ones to follow in the event of a debilitating accident or untimely death. Celebrities like Heath Ledger
, Anna Nicole Smith
(also known as Vickie Lynn Marshall), Princess Diana
, John F. Kennedy, Jr.
, Janis Joplin
, Michael Jackson
, and, most recently, Brittany Murphy
, all died unexpectedly, and yet each and every one of them had a will and estate plan. It's just common sense.