I have bad news for you: young people die. Death, unfortunately, isn’t reserved for the elderly. While we tend to think of Estate Plans, Wills and Trusts as things for old people, it’s just as important for young people – especially young parents – to plan for their death too. You may think, “well I don’t have any assets, why would I need an Estate Plan?”
Here is why:
- Who will oversee making medical decisions for you, if you can’t? A healthcare directive is set up now, to make sure, if the time comes that you can’t make your own decisions about your healthcare, your wishes are known and someone is designated to act and speak on your behalf. This can save your surviving loved ones a lot of heartache and stress about making difficult decisions.
- Who will oversee your financial affairs?
With an Estate Plan, you will assign an Agent or Trustee to manage your final financial affairs. This should be someone you trust and who is responsible enough and willing to carry out your final wishes. Their duties would include paying your bills when you are sick, collecting all your assets, paying off your debts (through your estate), determining the value of your holdings, distributing assets and if necessary, hiring an attorney.
- Who will care for your minor children? For young families, this may be the single biggest reason for an Estate Plan. If one parent dies, the surviving parent will raise the children (unless they are physically or emotionally unable). But what if you both die? In that case, the court will appoint a guardian, without knowing your wishes. If you want to ensure your crazy father-in-law doesn’t get your children, you will need a plan that clearly states WHO will get guardianship of your children
- What happens to your savings and investments? Make sure you have beneficiaries designated on your retirement and investment accounts. And make sure they are current! In a Forbes article, Young People need Estate Plans too, they advised, “add beneficiaries to your bank account, by asking the bank for a POD (payable on death) form. A will can take a while for the court to process, but with beneficiaries, your heirs just need to show up with a death certificate and some form of ID and they can get immediate access to your accounts.” However, this does NOT work if you heirs are under 18, and even at the legal age of 18, they may be poor money managers. A trust will solve this problem by holding money for your children, to take care of them until they are older and, hopefully, more responsible.
- Life Insurance may be your biggest asset. Even if you don’t have a big estate, it’s crucial to have a life insurance policy large enough to pay off your debts, educate your children, and provide living expenses for those you leave behind. Often your living trust will be the beneficiary of your life insurance policies.
- Who gets your prized possessions? In times of duress, people can become angry and bitter. Save parents, siblings, children and your spouse from having to fight over your sentimental belongings. Put in writing who gets what. You will save them from a lot of stress by doing so.
- What will happen to your Social Media accounts? In the grand scheme of things, this may not seem like a big deal. But imagine your social media accounts ending up in the hands of a bitter child or an estranged spouse, upon your death. You wouldn’t want just anyone posting on your behalf while you’re alive – and you certainly wouldn’t want just anyone “speaking” and posting on your behalf when you’re gone. Make a list of your accounts, logins and passwords and make it clear who you want to handle those accounts – and how you want them handled – when you no longer can. While you’re at it, provide online banking information to your spouse, agent, executor and/or successor trustees as well.
Tragedy can strike anyone, at any time. Be sure your family is protected. Get your Trust or Estate Plan in order today. Contact us for no-obligation consultation. We’re here to help.
How does California’s End of Life Option Act Affect Your Estate Plan?
California’s Right to Die Act was born out of California resident, Brittany Maynard’s, decision to move to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s law allowing physician-assisted suicide, after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
On June 9, the California legislature passed into law the right of individuals, “who meet certain qualifications, and who has been determined by his or her attending physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, as defined, to make a request for a drug prescribed pursuant to these provisions for the purpose of ending his or her life.” (source: California Legislature Website)
The law also established guidelines for determining who can exercise this option and how. To take advantage of the End of Life Option, several criteria must be met, including the following:
The terminally-ill patient must:
- Be 18 years or older
- Be a proven California resident
- Have a terminal illness, as certified by an attending physician and a consulting physician
- Have mental capacity to make his or her own healthcare decisions. (An agent appointed under a “living will” or advance healthcare directive cannot consent for an incapacitated patient.)
- Fully understand his or her medical condition, options, and the nature of the act
- Voluntarily request “a prescription for an aid-in-dying drug”
The patient must be able to self-administer the aid-in-dying drug:
- The patient’s choice must be properly documented
- The patient may have to undergo an examination by a mental health professional if the attending physician or the consulting physician feel there is any indication of mental infirmity, lack of understanding, or undue influence.
Frequently Asked Questions About California’s Right-to-Die Law and Your Living Trust:
Can I use my living trust or power of attorney to direct my Agent to authorize use of an aid-in-dying drug? No, only the patient can request the drug, and administer the drug.
Do I need to make any changes to my existing Living trust? No, but if you would like an End of Life Option you must fill out the “Request for an Aid-In-Dying Drug to End My Life in A Humane and Dignified Manner Form” and submit it to your Estate Planning Attorney. Download your form here.
You can click here to get detailed information about the Act or contact us for a consultation on how it may affect you or a loved one.
As an Estate Planning Attorney, I’ve seen more than my fair share of familial challenges. I’ve had clients dealing with everything from chronic illness and sudden death to troubled children, estranged spouses and greedy siblings. I can’t count how many times a frustrated parent, sibling or spouse has plopped in a chair in my office, demanding that we disinherit someone out of anger and frustration. Usually, it’s because they don’t know other options are available.
Cutting someone out of your Will completely isn’t your only option!
The fact is, there are other ways to deal with errant relatives and disinheriting all together could be saved as a last resort:
Something to Lose
For the real troublemakers, your best option may be to leave them something that will be taken away if they contest your estate, instead of leaving them nothing at all. This will also satisfy the requirement that they are at least mentioned in your Estate Plan and give them a choice: take something or risk everything.
Something to Earn
You can also make heirs earn their inheritance – even after you’re gone! This can be anything from requiring college graduation to successful drug testing before the money is doled out.
Some people take longer to grow up and get their act together. You can make an heir wait until they are 30 (or 60 if that what it takes!) or give them multiple chances by staging distributions in increments every 1-5 years. You can also Will a restricted annual or monthly payment (similar to a pension).
Limited Use Inheritances
Some kids should never get any money at all, but you can still leave them money to cover medical expenses, education, purchase of a home, etc. This money will stay in a Trust and be distributed by your executor.
If none of these options work for your unique situation, you still have every right to exclude any family member from your Trust or Will. It’s 100% your choice and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you would like to discuss this – or any other Trust or Will question, contact us now to schedule a consultation.