Myth: You must have significant assets in order to have an "estate plan."
Answer: NO! If you're hung up on having stuff because we call it "estate" planning, then try this one: You are your greatest asset. Let me explain why this thought is so important.
Your estate plan is two-fold.
First, it covers life planning. When I speak with people I tell them that this is the most important part of an estate plan. I truly believe it is. Who would you want to make decisions on your behalf, while you are living, but need the help? Think about that for a minute. You don’t have an estate plan prepared so it’s not written anywhere for doctors or family to reference. Who makes the decision? Most people quickly answer my spouse or my family. That’s great, but what type of care do you honestly want? What type of care do you flat-out refuse? Does your family really know what you want? What happens if they all disagree? Your intent regarding care is vital and your estate plan addresses it. If you don’t set this up, you run the risk of receiving care that you don’t want or vice versa. Even worse, you run the risk of having a court decide what happens to you and what care you receive.
Second, your estate plan covers death planning. Yes, you’re going to have to talk about death. Guess what, talking about death doesn’t kill you. You need to do it. Planning for your death is important for your loved ones. It’s already going to be an emotional time where people don’t necessarily act like themselves. I’ve seen completely reasonable people transform into unrecognizable tyrants at the death of a loved one. I’ve seen families torn apart with siblings no longer speaking to each other. Why make an emotionally-charged situation worse by not being prepared and leaving a bunch of unanswered questions? Worse yet are the families where only one person is involved with the finances and that’s the one to die. The frightened, distraught survivors are left floating in an ocean of uncertainty.
Estate planning is about exercising your choices, while you can. Yes, this planning involves some tough discussions about care, kids, and yes, about assets too. Take time to recognize your choices, and properly document them. Take away the uncertainty. Your family will thank you.