Never Too Young

Guest Author: Michele C. Petite-Shelhorse

The fact is, life is never predictable. You are never too young to protect your loved ones and delegate your life’s legacy. Below are ten reasons why young people should consider making their estate plan now.

  1. How do you want to be remembered? Celebration of Life planning is wise. A celebration of life gathering is vital. It lets others share their memories about you, continue to recognize your importance and know what you stood for while you were on earth. Pre-planning relieves your loved ones of having to decide what to do and incur costs during their time of grief.
  2. Are you in the military, or do you have a particularly high-risk job such as law enforcement? These types of higher-risk careers usually carry a life insurance policy included in your benefits package. You can delegate to whom you want the insurance proceeds paid. Also, even if you don’t have one of these high-risk careers, you should consider how you want your benefits paid out after your death. Anyone over age 18 should have at least essential estate planning done- a will with a personal representative, a Health Care Directive, and Powers of Attorney.
  3. Protecting your family from red tape: Without the proper planning, your family will need to administer your estate and pay any expenses attached until the no-will probate process is underway. If you do not have appropriate appointments in your estate planning, your family will have to go through a longer probate process than if you have a will. Until this process is complete, bank accounts or life insurance policies are frozen while expenses for court fees, attorney fees and estate fees create a financial burden on your family.
  4. You own a pet: Pets are family. They are a massive part of our lives. If you’re no longer here, who would care for your pet in the same loving way you do? You can assign a pet caregiver in your will. Also, you can direct accounts or sales of certain assets to go to the new caregiver for expenses to ensure your pet gets the best care possible.
  5. What if you are in a permanent vegetative state, or on life support? Do you want to be able to make this decision while you are still of sound mind? Emotions run high, and families often feud over this. It is difficult when people do not agree on this. Everyone should have an advance health care directive and a health care power of attorney. Such documents are especially important if you have a life partner to whom you are not married.
  6. Protecting your same-sex partner: Some states do not recognize a same-sex partner as next of kin. Many families can share the same view. If you have your will or trust done now, your partner can stay in the home you may have shared together and be awarded any investments, personal property or life insurance you would like them to receive.
  7. You want to give funds or personal property to your friends or a specific family member: If you do not have a Last Will and Testament that specifies who receives certain funds or personal property, then the court will award it to the next of kin pursuant to the Washington statutory scheme. The order of beneficiaries would be as follows:
    • Spouse
    • Children
    • Parents
    • Siblings
    • Grandparents
      Therefore, if you want your estate, accounts and personal effects to go to a friend or a specific family member, you need to have a Last Will and Testament stating this very clearly. A Will spells out the exact percentages and shares to be divided and distributed.
  8. Are you passionate about a cause or charity? Remember, this is your legacy. What footprint do you want to leave when you die? With a last will, you can designate all or any percentage to a favorite charity or cause and help keep them healthy even after you are gone.
  9. Do I want to be buried or cremated? This is an acutely personal and individual decision. Many programs will help you set aside costs and payments ahead of time so that your loved ones are not burdened with finances and arrangements in their time of grief.
  10. Can I make an environmental difference even when I am gone? Many people are choosing to have their remains help the environment using a method called Tree Urn or Tree Pod Burial. Called Bio Urns, these are biodegradable urns designed to convert your remains into a tree. The container is made using 100% biodegradable materials, coconut shell, compacted peat, and cellulose. It has two parts – a top capsule with the proper medium to allow complete germination of the seed, and a bottom cone where you can place the ashes. Many different companies provide this service, and you can even pick your own tree and designate where you would like to have it to planted. Some people are choosing to have ashes mixed with compost and put into their favorite gardens so their remains can continue to help our plants and gardens flourish. This personal and unique process should be written very clearly in your last will with a designated person to complete this event. Contact an experienced estate planning attorney today to address this and other topics and make sure that your legacy is protected.