Getting older is when we’re conditioned to start thinking about estate planning. I hope, as you’ve read through estate planning in different stages of your life, you’ve come to understand that this isn’t a topic we start dealing with when we’re old. Because estate planning isn’t something only old people do. It’s something all adults should do.
We think of estate planning as something we begin to think about only when we’ve acquired wealth… “well I don’t won’t have anything to pass on anyway!” Or something we only start to do when we’re finally confronted with death. But it really isn’t. Estate planning is something every adult should think through because it’s simply thinking about the legal to-do list that will come up when you die and making that to-do list as manageable as possible for the people who will also be grieving you. And that comes with adulthood. Whether or not you think you’re rich and whether or not you think you are or should be facing your mortality.
As you age, that legal to-do list may get much simpler. You might not have minor children depending on you or depending on your resources. it’s also going to have the common thread since early adulthood: capacity. If you are not able to make medical decisions for yourself or you’re not able to deal with your finances, who should?
This issue doesn’t come up just because you’re old. It’s something even new adults should think through. It just also happens to be the case that as we age, we’re more likely to have medical issues that can lay us up or affect our ability to process information, including financial information.
It’s also time to get very organized financially. Know exactly what you have and where it will go (and how) if you have it when you die. Download this checklist to help get you started. It’s easier to manage yourself and finding out what you won’t become a perverse treasure hunt for someone else someday.
Here’s the really important thing. If you think about estate planning as something you only do “when you’re elderly” or when “you’re ready” to die… you may not get a chance to do it at all. Almost all documents require that you have some level of competency. The fact is, you’ll never be “ready”. If you are, you risk either lacking the mental capacity to actually make the plans or you’ll have a bunch of way more important things to do.
But, if you think about it as part of what all responsible adults do, you’ll be ready when it’s needed.