One size does not fit all when it comes to estate planning. Each of us has different needs and priorities, depending on where we and our family members are in our lives.
(Check this guide for a handy reference to what you need at this point in yours.)
“Estate planning is individualized, depending on a person’s situation,” said attorney Greg Bonney. “I tell my clients to think about their goals and objectives before I meet with them.”
While some elements apply to adults of any age, particular documents or planning are needed, or should be more seriously considered, at certain times in a person’s life. Any adult, even one who’s just turned 18, should have a power of attorney for finances, as well as an advance directive (Power of Attorney for Healthcare) about how medical decisions should be made if you cannot make them yourself. A will may or may not be helpful at that age, depending on assets and the way in which the young adult wants assets distributed upon death.
What most often motivates a person to schedule an appointment with Bonney, however, is when a couple has children and they want to appoint a guardian should they both die. Another important part of the conversation is how they want to arrange finances for a child’s care, education and beyond. Such decisions should be reviewed periodically as children grow and develop and mature. The timing of when a child should have control over money or other assets may be adjusted as a parent gets a better sense of how a child handles money or handles life challenges.
During the empty nest stage of life and beyond, Bonney suggests reviewing how your estate is structured. You may want to consider a trust at this point, especially if you own property in multiple states or are in a second marriage or have a beneficiary with special needs. Your planning may also take into consideration children from prior marriages or relationships, as well as grandchildren.
Later in life there are other issues that should be addressed, including who should make decisions or carry out your wishes concerning funeral, burial, religious traditions and so on. You may also want to rethink your advance medical directive, beneficiaries and financial power of attorney.
“As you age and have additional life experiences, your feelings may change about medical or health procedures or decisions – or who will best carry out your wishes,” Bonney said.
Information provided by Greg Bonney, estate planning attorney in La Crosse WI. For a La Crosse estate planning lawyer, contact him at 608-784-5678.