Many people make the mistake of assuming estate planning is something only older people need to do. California estate planning laws exist to help adults at every stage of their lives, from your 20s to your 60s and beyond. The only difference is the estate planning instruments you need to have in place may be different, depending on how old you are.
Here are the estate planning tools you should have, based on your age:
In your 20s
As a single, childless adult just beginning your career, you might not have to worry yet about who will get your assets. But you should have powers of attorney in place in case a sudden illness or serious accident makes you unable to take care of yourself. In California, a durable power of attorney lets you designate someone else to handle your finances while you are incapacitated. An advance health care directive gives you the ability to assign an agent to be your advocate for medical decisions, as guided by your living will.
You can choose one of your parents to have power of attorney over your finances and healthcare, or another adult you trust.
In your 30s
By your late 30s, you could be married with children. You might own your own home and have begun accumulating wealth. In other words, it is time to find the right trust for you, such as a living trust. Your trust will allow you to distribute your assets to your loved ones and others as you see fit, as well as minimize estate taxes and court costs.
If you are married, you will probably want to change your powers of attorney documents to make your spouse your agent.
In your 40s
If you do not have powers of attorney or a trust in place yet, now is the time to catch up. Meanwhile, make sure your parents have completed their estate planning. Give them the chance to explain the contents of their plan to you and your siblings so there are no surprises.
In your 50s, 60s and 70s
Hopefully, your estate plan is complete and ready to go. If not, you should consult an estate planning attorney as soon as possible. If your plan is done, your only job now is to review it every few years to see if you want to make any changes.
Experienced estate planning lawyers are prepared to help you at every stage of your life.