Why estate planning is important for young families

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31 - Jan - 2013

I often hear from younger clients at Halcomb Singler, LLP, “Why do I need an estate plan?” Many of them assume that “estate planning” deals only with planning for transfer of assets. A comprehensive estate plan deals with much more than assets. In this post, I’ll briefly discuss the common objections I hear, and explain why estate planning should be a priority for people of all ages and asset/income levels.

“I don’t have any children. Everything will just go to my spouse anyway.”
While this statement seems intuitive, it is factually inaccurate. Under Indiana’s law of intestacy, if a childless person passes away without a Will, and leaves a surviving spouse and one or more surviving parent(s), then the surviving spouse is entitled to 75% of the decedent’s estate, while the surviving parent is entitled to 25%. This is obviously an invitation to conflict between the surviving spouse and the in-laws. Even a simple Will can relieve this potential problem.

“I don’t really have a lot of assets.”
As I mentioned before, estate planning encompasses much more that asset planning. A solid estate plan will include not only asset planning, but also crucial documents for planning your health care and maintenance of your assets in the event that you become incapacitated by illness or injury and are unable to manage your own affairs. I often recommend that clients include in their estate plan Power of Attorney documents to designate an attorney-in-fact to deal with financial issues and also health care issues in such an event. These documents not only lend peace of mind in knowing that you’ve designated someone you trust to manage your affairs, but can also help to avoid a costly formal guardianship proceeding in a probate court in the event of incapacity.

“I have children, but if something happens to me, my spouse will just take over.”
This is a shortsighted statement, as it’s entirely possible that a common tragedy could result in both parents being unable to provide care for the children. A comprehensive estate plan will enable you to clearly express your preferences for who will care for your children as their guardian(s) in the event that both natural parents are unable provide that care for any reason.

These are common issues that face young families and couples. No young person wants to think about their own mortality, but the addition of a spouse and children creates a responsibility to plan for potential unforeseen events. I strongly recommend that all young families and couples sit down with an attorney and discuss their plans for passing control of their assets and responsibilty for providing care for their themselves, their spouses and children in the event of an incapacitating injury, illness or death.

If you have questions about estate planning, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, guardianships or the like, please feel free to contact me at (317) 575-8222. I take great pride in being accessible to my clients and providing clear and practical advice in the areas of estate planning, probate, guardianships, business and real estate law.

You can also contact me by email at greg@halcombsingler.com, or check out our website at www.halcombsingler.com