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  • Writer's pictureShannon Marino

Think You Are Too Young To Need An Estate Plan? Think Again.

The pandemic has caused Americans to change their behavior in a number of different ways, and one of the most positive of these changes is related to estate planning. For the first time since the study’s inception,’s 2021 Wills and Estate Planning Study found that young adults are now more likely to have an estate plan than middle-aged adults.

Specifically, the study found that in 2020 only 16% of Americans aged 18 to 34 reported having a will or another estate planning document, but in 2021, that percentage rose by 10 points to 26%—a 63% increase in just one year. Conversely, the 2021 study found that the number of 35 to 54 year-olds with an estate plan actually decreased from 27% in 2020 to 22% in 2021.

Since young adults are traditionally the least likely to engage in estate planning, the study’s results are particularly encouraging for this demographic. And the shift in behavior is largely due to the pandemic, with 45% of the 18 to 34 year-olds surveyed reporting that they were motivated by COVID-19 to get their estate plan started. Yet, it really shouldn’t take a global pandemic to motivate young people to take estate planning seriously. In fact, all adults over age 18 should have some basic estate planning documents in place. And this is true regardless of how much money you have, whether you are married or single, and whether or not you have kids. On that note, if you are an adult of any age and the pandemic didn’t inspire you to create your estate plan, here are four reasons why you shouldn’t wait another day to get your plan started.

1. Incapacity Leaves Your Vulnerable

Most people assume estate planning only comes into play when they die, but that’s dead wrong—pun fully intended. Although planning for your eventual death is a big part of the process, it’s just as important—if not more so—to plan for your potential incapacity due to a serious accident or illness.

If you become incapacitated without an estate plan, your family would have to petition the court to appoint a guardian or conservator to manage your legal, financial, and medical affairs. This process can be extremely costly, time-consuming, and traumatic for everyone involved. Plus, the court could appoint a family member you’d never want in control of such crucial decisions (just look at what happened to Britney Spears), or the court could appoint a professional guardian, which would give a total stranger nearly complete control of your life and your assets.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you put estate planning vehicles in place that grants the person(s) of your choice the immediate authority to make your medical, financial, and legal decisions for you in the event of your incapacity. We can also implement estate planning strategies that provide specific guidelines detailing exactly how you want your medical care to be managed during your incapacity, including critical end-of-life decisions. You may not be able to prevent a potential incapacity. However, you do have the power to meet with us, your Personal Family Lawyer®, to ensure you have control over how your life and assets will be managed if it ever does occur.

2. Control Who Inherits Your Assets If you die without an estate plan, the court will decide who inherits your assets, and this can lead to all sorts of problems. Who is entitled to your property is determined by our state’s intestate succession laws, which hinge largely upon whether you are married and if you have children.

Spouses and children are given top priority, followed by your other closest living family members. If you’re single with no children, your assets typically go to your parents and siblings, and then more distant relatives, if you have no living parents or siblings. If no living relatives can be located, your assets go to the state.

You can prevent all of this with proper estate planning and ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Moreover, it’s important to note that state intestacy laws only apply to blood relatives, so your unmarried partners and/or close friends would get nothing if you fail to create a plan. If you want someone outside of your family to inherit your property, having an estate plan is an absolute must.

If you’re married with children and die with no estate plan, you might think things would go fairly smoothly, but that’s not always the case. If you’re married but have children from a previous relationship, for example, the court could give everything to your new spouse and leave your children with nothing. In another instance, you might be estranged from your kids or not trust them with money, but without a plan, state law controls who gets your assets, not you. In another situation, you and your spouse could both die, leaving assets to children who aren’t old enough to manage them, and requiring a long-term professional guardian to manage assets in ways you would never choose.

Moreover, dying without a plan could also cause your surviving family members to get into an ugly court battle over who should inherit your property. You may think this would never happen to your loved ones, but we see families torn apart by it all the time, even when there’s little financial wealth involved.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you create a plan that distributes your assets in the exact manner you wish, taking into account your family dynamics and other contributing factors, so your death won’t be any more painful or expensive for your family than it needs to be.

3. Keep Your Family Out Of Court And Conflict

If you don’t have an estate plan—or if you only have a will (yes, even with a will)—you are forcing your family to go through probate upon your death. Probate is the court process for settling your estate, and even if you have a will, it’s notoriously slow, costly, and public. But with no plan at all, probate can be a total nightmare for your loved ones.