One of the frequent questions I get is – “when is the best time to get an estate plan?” How do I answer this question – that depends. Most often the answer I give is what you’ll read below:
When all is well with you – that’s the best (ideal) time to get your estate plan together. For many folks, they wait too late and there is little that can be done for individuals who are ill or lack capacity to sign documents.
Even if you become ill suddenly or are dealing with an ongoing health issue, an estate plan is still something to put in place – as long as you have capacity. If you don’t put your wishes in writing, please know that the State you reside in has a default set of laws that will determine:
- who can be appointed guardian of your property and person (if you do not have a power of attorney, a guardianship proceeding may be necessary)
- the distribution of your assets
- who can be appointed personal representative of your estate
- who is in line to be a guardian for minor children
No one knows your family members and circumstances like you do – why leave such important decisions for a judge to decide?
The basic estate plan items include:
- Up-to date beneficiary designations (life insurance, banks, retirement accounts, etc.)
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Advance Medical Directive with Living Will
Your estate plan is not a ‘one size fits all’ set up. According to your wishes, assets, health, and family dynamics, more documents may be needed (trusts, deeds, tax planning, medicaid planning, wealth planning, etc.).
While you are well – before something happens is a good way to address the question – “when is the best time to get an estate plan?”
The information in this post is intended for informational purposes only and not to provide legal advice. Consult with an estate planning attorney about your particular situation.
Aquanetta J. Betts is an attorney and speaker. She is licensed in Washington D.C., and Maryland. Her practice focuses on the areas of wills, trusts, estates and planned giving. Connect with her on Twitter @AquanettaBetts.