Regardless of age or financial situation, basic estate planning is something that each one of us should work on. The following is a quick overview of the three most important parts of any individual’s estate plan.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament tells the state exactly where you want your property and money to go in the event of your death. Your Maryland or DC will, once properly signed, becomes the law of your estate and replaces your jurisdiction’s intestacy laws, the default rules that determine how a deceased person’s money and property is distributed upon his or her death.
Many young people do not have significant assets at the time their first will is drafted. This is not a reason to delay getting a will. Careful drafting can create general rules to pass on wealth before it is earned. It is also not necessary that all offspring and children be born before they can be named as beneficiaries in a will. A skilled estate planning lawyer can create a document that guarantees that later born children share in the estate just as ones who are alive at the time of the will’s drafting.
Finally, the absolute most important reason that a young person or young couple should create a will is to legally name a guardian and backup guardian to care for any minor children in the event of the simultaneous demise of both parents.
Power of Attorney
Powers of attorney are documents that allow a trusted friend or a family member to take care of your affairs for you in the event you are too sick or otherwise unable to tend to them yourself. By officially having someone able to act on your behalf you can guarantee that important business will not need to be postponed or abandoned. While power of attorney forms are freely available, signing such a form without consulting an attorney can be a very dangerous thing to do.
Advance Healthcare Directive
Advance healthcare directives are legal documents that provide orders to doctors and other medical caregivers concerning life support and end of life care. If you have any specific requests concerning what kind of lifesaving techniques you would like or would not like to have performed on you, then you should have an advance healthcare directive. Most people have strong feelings about these subjects. Without an advance healthcare directive, doctors may be required to provide care and treatments that you would not want.
Many young people mistakenly assume that they don’t need a will because they don’t own property or don’t have large sums of money in the bank. This leap of logic is not correct. Some of the most important aspects of estate planning have nothing to do with property or money. For most young people the most important parts of estate planning involve designating who will care for minor children, and establishing legally binding advance healthcare directives.
Maryland attorney Matthew Baum assists clients, young and old, with estate planning matters. He has offices in Baltimore, Catonsville, and in Columbia Maryland. First-time estate consultations up to 30 minutes are free of charge and involve no obligation.