When people think of estate planning, they often think about someone ready for retirement or dealing with a major medical issue. However, estate planning is a practical process that can benefit individuals at many different stages in life.
Waiting until you are about to end your professional career or until you have serious health concerns might put you in a situation where you need the support of an estate plan but do not have any documents in place.
When is the appropriate time for an adult to draft an estate plan?
You are vulnerable once you become an adult
As soon as you become an adult, you have to think about your estate plan. 18-year-olds are legal adults even if they often still have a lot of growing up to do. With the exception of those subject to an adult guardianship because of special needs, new adults are legally autonomous, which means their parents no longer have control over their healthcare decisions or finances.
In a medical emergency, that new independence could actually be reason for concern. A college student or young professional who winds up in a coma after a car crash may not have anyone with the legal right to access their medical records or to make decisions about what treatment they receive. Even someone who is about to leave home for college would benefit from drafting advance directives and medical powers of attorney.
Your own protection isn’t the only concern
At some point, you will have assets in your name and also people who depend on you. Whether you get married or have children, you may have to think about your dependents and create estate documents that protect them.
You can name a guardian for minor children and designate beneficiaries for your property with a will. You can protect your beneficiaries from taxes and yourself from debt collection efforts with a trust. People who just got married, who became parents or who recently acquired major property, like a home or a small business, are among those with the most pressing need for an estate plan.
Generally speaking, anyone with dependent family members or significant property to their name will benefit from an estate plan. Any adult too old for parental input regarding their medical care and not yet married could also benefit from advance directives and powers of attorney. Understanding when it is time to draft estate documents can help you protect what matters the most to you.