Did you know that less than half of Americans 55 years of age or older have a will? In fact, according to a recent study by Merrill Lynch, only 18% of Americans have a will, a durable power of attorney and an advance heath care directive. According to a separate study, the most common reason is: “I haven’t gotten around to it.”
Everyone over the age of 18 needs an estate plan, whether you make minimum wage or are ready to build a family dynasty. Why? Consider these benefits:
- To protect your privacy
- To preserve your estate (aka your stuff) for the benefit of those you choose
- To minimize the expenses your children will have to bear following your death
- To ease the burden on your family
- To avoid the cost of guardianship (by choosing someone trusted to act for you should you be unable to do so)
- To ensure the continuation of your business
- To keep the government from deciding what happens to you and your estate
A basic estate plan usually includes a will, two durable powers of attorney (one for your assets and the other for health care – a/k/a a health care surrogate) and a living will (an instrument whereby you provide instructions to your doctors regarding life-prolonging procedures). It does not take long to put a plan in place. As your estate grows, so too does your plan.
At heart, we are all young and immortal. Do not let that stop you from making arrangements for your estate and family. Benjamin Franklin once said that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” He was right.