Estate Planning For Young Adults

It is understandable that planning for the possibility of death or incapacitation would be one of the last things on your mind when you are a young adult. However, the fact remains that as soon as you are married and have your first child, you have a family that is depending on you. From that point forward planning for any possible eventuality becomes one of your responsibilities. Below are three foundational elements that should be included in the estate plans of young adults.

A Living Will

When you think about estate planning financial matters may immediately come to mind, but there is another aspect to consider. If you were ever incapacitated suddenly due to an accident or serious medical trauma and unable to make your own medical decisions, your family would be left to make them for you. How an individual feels about things like being kept alive by artificial means when he or she is in a terminal condition is a personal choice. It would be agonizing for your loved ones to be faced with such a decision without knowing how you feel about it, and you can make your wishes known through the execution of a living will.

Life Insurance

When your family relies on your income to be able to pay the bills and maintain their quality of life, is important to have an income replacement vehicle in place to protect them should you pass away unexpectedly. Life insurance traditionally fills this need, and it is important to review your coverage regularly and make adjustments as your family grows and their needs increase.

Child Guardianship

If you are a single parent, who would take care of your child or children if you were to pass away unexpectedly? If you and your spouse have children, and you both passed away in a car crash together, do you know who would assume guardianship? You can answer these questions yourself by drawing up a will that expresses your guardianship choices to be certain that your wishes are honored in the unlikely event of your sudden death.

Naming a Guardian

If you are a parent with young children, it is imperative to name a Guardian to care for your children in the event that you and your spouse pass away. The consideration that your children may grow up without you can be heart-breaking, but don’t let that be a deterrent to choosing a Guardian during the estate planning process.

Consider Your Options

First, you and your spouse should make a list of all possible Guardians. This should include all adults in your family and possibly friends of the family. Be careful when listing older siblings if they have not yet reached adulthood.

Make a Decision

Once your list of Guardians is complete, you can begin to cross off names. Decide what attributes of a Guardian are most important to you. Do you prefer that it be a married couple, or are you fine with an unmarried Guardian? Do you wish to keep your children in the same city or town where they grew up? Is it important that your chosen caregiver practice the same religion as you?

Use all of your preferences to narrow your list down to two or three choices. Your second and third choices can be listed as back-up Guardians in the event that your first choice is unavailable.

Advise Family Members

Speak with your children and other family member’s about your Guardian choice. This may help to alleviate custody battles after your passing. You may also want to leave a written letter advising your reasons for your Guardian choice.

Put It in Writing

Finally, you must put your Guardian choice into your Last Will and Testament or your Revocable Living Trust. If you do not, the matter of your children’s Guardian will be decided by a judge after your passing. Even worse, it may result in a fight among well meaning surviving relatives, like grandparents, siblings, and inlaws fighting to determine who gets custody of your children.

Anti-Guardian Declaration

Something else that you may consider is executing an affirmative declaration as to a specific person that do not under any circumstance want to serve as guardian of your children. Such a document need not become public record or even be disclosed at all unless that person attempts to become your children’s guardian, at which point such a document would provide persuasive testimony to a court that you specifically do not want that person to serve.