Mistake Number One: Thinking You’re Too Young to Have a Plan in Place
Most people approach estate planning with an enthusiasm ordinarily reserved for a trip to the dentist: you know it’s necessary, but it’s not something you’re eager to do. The considerations that need to be put into estate planning can be daunting. Although confronting your mortality may not be a pleasant task, a well-drafted estate plan can ensure your wishes are carried out. A well-drafted plan can also eliminate guesswork and court involvement, making a difficult time somewhat easier for your loved ones. Estate planning is an area of law riddled with misconceptions and myths. In this ten-part series, I will outline the top ten estate planning myths and mistakes.
Thinking you’re too young to put a plan in place. Those in their 20s or 30s might feel as if they’ve got all the time in the world to plan. However, there are certain documents that everyone over the age of 18 should have. All adults should, at least, have powers of attorney (healthcare, mental healthcare, and financial) in place. Though we tend to associate end-of-life decisions with those of advanced age, several of the country’s most notorious end-of-life cases involve women in their 20s. Perhaps the most recognizable name in the group is that of Terri Schiavo.
Terri Schiavo is a name most Americans are familiar with. In 1990, Theresa Marie “Terri” Schiavo collapsed from full cardiac arrest that deprived her brain of oxygen. After multiple doctors diagnosed Terri as being in a persistent vegetative state, her husband ordered her feeding tube be removed, saying that Terri would not want have wanted to live that way. Terri’s parents fought the removal and a years-long court battle ensued. Courts ultimately sided with Schiavo’s husband and Terri died in 2005, not long after her feeding tube was removed.
Had Terri left end of life wishes in a Living Will, her name probably would not be recognizable to us. Although not terribly pleasant, all adults should take the time to reflect on what they would want to have happen in certain end-of-life scenarios and memorialize those wishes in proper documents.
Planning for asset management and distribution is also an important consideration. Although younger couples or individuals may not yet have accumulated the assets they deem worthy of a plan, starting early is a good idea. Not only does it build a foundation for distribution of assets, a complete plan includes a financial power of attorney, allowing someone to manage financial affairs in the event of incapacity.
Unfortunately, as in the case of Terri Schiavo, death and incapacity know no age. If you or a loved one who recently turned 18 do not have basic estate planning documents in place, call our office to make an appointment with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.
– Andrea Claus, Esq.