Making Your Estate Plan: What to Prepare for and When
Nobody likes to think about their eventual death. We have more interesting and pressing matters to think about. However, it is important for everyone, even the younger generations, to have a long term plan in place for when life decides to throw you a curveball.
Here is a breakdown of where each generation should be with their estate plan.
Members of Generation Z were born between the late 90s and early 2010s. The oldest of these people are now in college and entering the workforce. If you are in Generation Z, you may not have many assets or children of your own. However, you should still consider putting together power of attorney documents, especially for healthcare purposes.
In a medical emergency, your healthcare agent, most likely a parent or sibling, may speak with your doctors and provide consent for medical procedures and surgeries if necessary. If you live in a different state than your parents, consider executing a healthcare power of attorney in both states, just to be on the safe side.
Your office retirement plans and any private IRAs you open, will require you to name one or more beneficiaries if you die so the funds can avoid going through probate. At this stage, you may end up naming your parents or siblings as beneficiaries of these accounts.
Also known as Generation Y, this group was born between 1980 and the mid 1990s. They have finished college and have been in the workforce for some time. If you are a Millennial, you may be married, own a house, and/or have one or more children.
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When you get married, you should review your powers of attorney. You want to be sure your spouse can make financial and healthcare decisions for you if you get hit by a bus or end up in a coma. Make sure any real estate you purchase is titled in a way that will avoid probate. If you have children, be sure to have a Last Will that says who will raise that child if you are deceased.
A Revocable Living Trust is a great way to handle your assets, whether you are married or not. Trusts let you avoid probate and control how your money will be distributed.
Members of Generation X were born between the mid 1960s and late 1970s. If this is your generation, you haven’t quite reached retirement yet and are likely saving aggressively for when that day comes. Additionally, you may have young grandchildren you want to set money aside for, in either a trust or a savings account.
At this age, if you haven’t put together your trust or living will, you should meet with an estate planning attorney in order to get these documents together. Once the plan is together, you should revisit it every 4-7 years to make sure it is up to date with the current laws in your state.
If you are a baby boomer, you were born between the mid 1940s and early 1960s. Your generation is beginning to retire and take advantage of the pensions and other retirement benefits earned after your long years in the workforce.
At this age, you may be facing another change in your marital status, either getting divorced or remarried, which should automatically trigger another visit to your estate plan to confirm that your account beneficiaries are up to date.
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At this age, you may be diagnosed with a chronic condition, such as cancer, or have had a health scare, meaning that it’s time to revisit your healthcare power of attorney and living will documents, even though you hopefully have many years left.
You may find that your views on being kept alive through artificial means have evolved since you last considered your living will, or that your initial decision with your first living will has been solidified. Your children may also be old enough to bear the responsibility of being your healthcare agent, which can also trigger a revision of these documents.
The silent generation was born between the mid 1920s and the mid 1940s. You are retired and making the most of your golden years.
At this age, you may decide that your family home is getting too large to care for, and that you might be more comfortable in a smaller apartment or an assisted living facility. You may decide to sell your property, and place the proceeds from the sale into a trust for your grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
You should also begin thinking about how to avoid probate with any assets not currently in a trust. You may decide to gift property to members of your family while you are still alive, or to name beneficiaries of assets in your living trust.
Regardless of your age, you should always keep copies of important documents in a safe location, such as a lockbox in your home. Make sure that the important people in your life – your parents, your siblings, your spouse, or your adult children – know where these documents are and how to access them in an emergency. This will ensure that your hard work of planning your estate will not be in vain.
Planning your estate is an ongoing process that will evolve as you get older and reach certain milestones in your life. Your life can change dramatically through different stages of life, from 20 to 40, or even 80 years old. Your comprehensive estate plan should reflect these changes in your life. Contact me today to discuss your estate plan, regardless of your generation.