Estate Planning for 20-somethings

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In terms of planning for your future, I’m sure most adults between the ages of 20 and 30 aren’t even considering their Last Will and Testament. It’s probably also not on your mind if you’re completely healthy and remain active-but it’s important not to wait. Anything can happen, at any moment, and you want to make sure your assets go to the right people. Stats released by the 2011 EZLaw Wills and Estate Planning Survey revealed the following:

  • Only 44% of American’s claimed to have an estate plan
  • Those that are 35 and younger feel it’s less important for people to have wills because people are living longer, healthier lives
  • 75% of those who don’t have a will, stated they would if it were easy and convenient, such as doing so online
  • 13% believe their spouse and children will automatically receive their assets

56% Need to Act Now

If you own anything-property, stocks, a business-or have children, creating your last will needs to be a priority. A will isn’t meant for bigger assets so think small when considering your possessions. You may start easy by adding basics such as who the legal guardians of your children will be. You may be opposed to the idea of writing your will because you want to wait until you have actual high-valued assets. As you age though, you will likely change your will often, and that’s OK. Wills are typically changed after life-changing events like marriage, having children, gaining high-valued assets, and even if your beneficiary dies. Don't forget to include your digital assets and information. Passwords and account information isn't something that's highly considered when writing our your will, but it should be; it simplifies the process for your family so they don't have trouble accessing your account information to get in touch with the right people.

Another part of estate planning is choosing a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy. Once you turn 18, you’re considered an adult. What if something happens to you where you are unable to communicate a medical issue you have? Your parents don’t have access to your health records because you are now an adult. So the take-home lesson here is, create a will now. Make your will legally binding, change it when necessary, and cover all your basis- everything needs to be considered when writing your will, even your burial, cremation, and/or funeral preferences.

Who Said You Can’t Make a Will Online?

Assuming you are a young twenty-something, it’s not likely you will need a lawyer for your first attempt at writing your will. Now, throw in complexities such as a second marriage, tax issues, and an abundance of assets, and you will want a lawyer’s guidance. LegalZoom.com is just one source offering legal products online that you can do yourself. Their product for a Last Will and Testament is $69 and claims it takes just 3 easy steps to complete. These do-it-yourself wills are legally binding, assuming you meet the qualifications.

Another option is the software program Quicken WillMaker Plus. It’s Nolo’s number one seller and may be downloaded allowing you to avoid paying shipping costs. You may purchase it for about $42 and it’s similar to using their tax software. Whichever product you choose to go with, there will be state laws outlined in the product and you will need two witnesses above the age of 18 to sign the typed document. It’s best to choose two individuals who are impartial to the contents of your will.

Including Sentimental Items

Believing that your spouse will automatically receive everything is a risky gamble. What about those items with no great monetary value, but high sentimental value? Things like old jewelry handed down from your Grandma, your first baby book that you are saving for you children, home videos, artwork, or anything else you can think of. I doubt your spouse will know what to do with a bracelet that’s been handed down for generations, and he probably won’t know it’s a family heirloom. It may even be smart to leave a historical explanation of the item your leaving and why you think they should receive it. It’s important to be clear on these terms to aid in avoiding a family altercation.

Think about how important it is to choose who gains legal custody of your children if you die. Another fact to consider is that in most states, if you have kids, the spouse will only receive about one-third of your assets, and the children will receive the rest. If you don’t have children, your parents will likely automatically receive the other two-thirds.  Some people don’t even have a relationship with their parents or they may be already deceased, which complicates who inherits your assets. Writing a will is no harder than your capstone or final graduation project- tackle it now and have no regrets later.

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