When should you consider visiting with an estate planning attorney? When you reach the age of 18! Having proper legal documents in place can make transitions in life easier for you and your loved ones in the event of illness, injury or death. Consider hiring an estate planning firm that offers a client maintenance program. This will help make sure your documents stay up to date throughout all your life stages.  Which stage are you at now?

Young, single and carefree! When you are a child, your parents can make financial and medical decisions for you. Not true when you turn 18. If you want your parents to be able to make medical and financial decisions for you if you are unable to make these decisions due to an injury or disease at this life stage, you need to have four documents to allow them to do so. They are:

  1. General Durable Power of Attorney for finances
  2. Health Care Power of Attorney for medical decisions
  3. Living Will to lay out your wishes regarding life-sustaining medical treatment
  4. A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA Release, to allow your agent to discuss your medical condition with your doctor without violating patient privacy laws.

Without these documents, your loved ones may need to go to court to seek guardianship over you to make these decisions for you. This is costly, time consuming, and easily avoided with these 4 documents.

We’re Married! You should revise the four advance directive documents listed above to make sure your spouse can control your financial and medical decisions if you ever become incapacitated. You probably need to have a will or trust at this life stage, need life insurance if you own real estate together, and revise your beneficiary designations on investments and insurance policies to include your spouse.

We’re Parents! Update your will or trust to include designating the guardian of your children. If you don’t have a trust, be sure to include trust provisions in your will if you don’t want your child to inherit everything at the age of 18. Consider increasing your life insurance amount at this life stage. When your children reach the age of 18, even if they are still at home, you should have the powers of attorney mentioned above and a HIPAA Authorization in place for them in case of an emergency.

We’re Getting Divorced! You don’t want your spouse or ex to receive your insurance or make financial or medical decisions any longer. Change beneficiary designations on accounts and revise your estate planning documents. Changing your estate plan is important at this life stage.

Single Again: Death of a Spouse. Not unlike a divorce: revise your beneficiary designations, revise your estate planning documents, and revisit your estate plan goals at this life stage.

Yours, Mine and Ours: Blended Families. Things can get complicated- and fast! A premarital agreement is very important to keep from unintentionally disinheriting your kids in favor of your step-kids or your new spouse’s next spouse in the event of your death or divorce. Fortunately, with proper (and very careful) estate planning, you can both honor your vows to your new spouse and provide an inheritance that is protected for and even from your own children.

Whoa, Almost Retired! Medicare does not cover long term care, only rehabilitative care. While your health is still good, consider Long Term Care Planning. There are legal strategies to help protect your life savings and your home if you or your spouse need long term care in a nursing facility.

We’re Retired! An exciting yet bittersweet stage of life. This is the critical life stage to implement all the above advice. Revisit your beneficiary designations and life insurance coverage and keep your will or trust up to date (things change the most at this stage with births, deaths, divorces, family relationship changes, etc.), and consider pre-paying funeral expenses for an easier transition for your loved ones.

We offer multiple free workshops that cover planning for each life stage. To learn more, click here!