Prepared. Aware. Ready.
February 2020 Issue
by Rebekah Freeman, Esquire
Technically, you don’t “need” an estate plan. Every state has laws in place to handle situations when an individual dies, or becomes incapacitated and has no estate documents.
For example, in South Carolina, if you become incompetent or disabled, and have no Financial or Healthcare Power of Attorneys, your parents, spouse, friend, partner, etc. can go to the Probate Court and petition the Court to be appointed as your Conservator (Finances) and/or your Guardian (healthcare/everything else). Similarly, if you die with no will or trust in place, South Carolina’s intestacy laws will control and dictate how your estate is distributed.
If you, like so many out there, find that leaving decisions up to the discretion of the State to be less than satisfactory, then you should speak with an estate planning attorney to get your affairs in order.
Here’s a breakdown of estate planning for certain age groups:
20-Somethings: After the age of 18, financial and healthcare decisions are no longer defaulted to your parents. A Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney (financial) allow you to name specific agents to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you cannot and to handle your finances in the event you cannot.
Married, 20-somethings, with no children, should have the above-mentioned Power of Attorneys and a Will. A will clearly indicates who you wish to handle your estate and how you wish your estate to be distributed.
Married, 20-somethings, with children. Again, all of the documents mentioned above are the bare minimums you should have at this point. Having a will when you have children is even more important because the will names Guardians for your children.
30-Somethings: Christina Lesher, an Attorney in Houston stated, “Typically, this is the decade where you’ve purchased your first or second home and may be well into starting a family. This is the age where you can begin to gather your financial information, including assets, and even if you feel like you haven’t accumulated a large amount of assets, you still need to start planning your estate.”
As stated above, financial and healthcare powers of attorney are an important estate planning component, along with a Last Will and Testament. But, being a little more established means, this is a good time to consider if a revocable trust would be a good estate planning tool. Trusts avoid probate and give an individual more control over their estate.
40s and 50s: Hopefully, by this stage in life, you have some form of an estate plan. If not, then not only should you consider everything mentioned above, but you should also start considering long term care insurance and retirement planning. If the situation arises where you or your spouse has to go into a nursing home, then long term care insurance can help with those hefty bills. Furthermore, you need to be able to plan on how to save for retirement and how those funds can be protected should something happen.
60s and Older: At this stage in your life, you should just be focusing on how to refine and update your estate plan so that it suits your currents needs and wishes. Asset Protection planning to protect assets from nursing homes is also a good conversation to have with an estate planning attorney as you head into your later years.
As life progresses, people change, and so do their estate planning goals. No matter your age, everyone needs an Estate Plan. Talk to a qualified estate planning attorney today.
Rebekah is the Associate Attorney at Elder Law & Estate Planning. Rebekah focuses on helping clients develop an estate plan, navigate the probate process and trust administrations. Rebekah is a member of the SC Bar Association, HH Bar Association and SC Women's Lawyer Association. To learn more, log onto www.hiltonheadelderlaw.com.