Estate planning is a long and tedious process and one that you surely don’t want to undertake by yourself. It is always best to hire an estate planning attorney to help you on this journey. They can relieve the tedium, make things go more smoothly and efficiently, answer all of your questions, and leave with the best possible outcome for you and your loved ones. But what is an estate plan? An estate plan is a combination of wills, trusts, end-of-life, and other documentation put together in a portfolio. There is a lot to consider when creating an estate plan. Who will get your money and assets after you die? Who will care for your disabled spouse or children if you have any, and how will you be buried? These and many other questions are answered and taken care of in the estate planning process.
Who is Estate Planning For?
The phrase “estate planning” often conjures up mental images of huge, beautiful homes with expansive gardens, exquisite jewelry, fancy cars, or luxury vacation homes…all things associated with the very wealthy. But estate planning is for almost everybody, including those in the lower-income brackets. Even single people and those with no children are not exempt. In fact, they have just as much to consider as a married couple or those with children. So we know what an estate plan is, but when is the right time to speak to an attorney about an estate plan? Well, generally, it is best to plan as early as possible. It takes time to find the right lawyer for your needs and it takes even more time to plan for your future.
When is The Best Time to Make an Estate Plan?
For example, some Medicaid programs in the US (Medi-Cal in California) take a deep analytical look at your financial transactions before they decide if you qualify for the program. If you want to keep your assets safe and still qualify, there is a certain way you can do it and a lawyer can help you with that. If you just sell or give assets away right before you need long term care, these items may be counted against you and you may have to go through a waiting period before you qualify for coverage. With long-term care planning, you don’t want to wait too long to plan, as you never know what medical issues may come to light later in life.
You don’t need to be worried about planning too early, because you can go back and change your plans with your lawyer if you change your mind or your familial status changes in the future. An estate plan done right is binding but it is also open to change if necessary. Just about every aspect of your estate plan can be changed, from your will to your choice of nursing home or care facility and beyond.
You may be or may have been considering what to do if you become incapacitated or pass away. Many people do, and at different stages of life, too. Even younger people think about it, especially if they have minor children. If you know what you want; who you want caring for your loved ones and where you want your money to go, or how you want to be buried, etc., then go ahead and make an estate plan with an experienced estate planning attorney. It is not too early and it is not too late. Of course, if you wait too long you may miss the optimum planning window for some things like long-term care planning. Obviously, you can never know when an emergency or accident may strike.
Even young people are sometimes struck down by illness or accident, leaving them incapable of making financial, medical, and care decisions for loved ones. Those people who have not planned in advance have no say in who cares for their minor children, elderly parents, or pets. They have no say over their finances. They do not get to determine their own course of treatment or care. This is a scary thought and a situation that none of us want to be in. You can only have control over these things if you have thoroughly and properly planned the disposition of your estate ahead of time. If you do, then all the decisions have already been made and nobody has anything to worry about as far as your wishes and goals are concerned.
Concerns About Estate Planning
You may be put off by the incredible amount of paperwork that goes into estate planning. You may be hesitant because of the long list of personal questions that may be asked of you about yourself, your family, and your wishes. You may even be dragging your feet because you just don’t want to take the time to do it. These are valid concerns; however, the fact is that the clock is always ticking, and life keeps going. We really have no control other than to plan. This is the only way we can really feel at peace with the things that might come at us in life…those things that would leave us susceptible to unalterable situations and final decisions.
So, What’s The Answer?
The answer to the question of when you should speak to an attorney about an estate plan cannot be quantified into a number, age, or percentage. The answer is “you should speak to an estate planning attorney as soon as you are ready”. If you have questions, call an estate planning law firm and schedule a consultation. Many estate planning attorneys can offer basic guidance over the phone, and they may even offer the initial consultation at no cost. All you have to do is call and find out.