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Compelling reasons to have an estate plan at any stage of life

It's not necessary for anyone in New York weighing their estate-related options to have substantial assets to benefit from this type of proactive planning. Yet, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), more than half of all adults and millennials do not have basic documents like a will or living trust.

Some people justify putting such plans on the back burner by saying they're too young, or they don't have children. However, there are many compelling reasons to consider estate planning at any stage of life. For instance, a living or revocable trust allows a designated individual to make decisions on behalf of someone if he or she is incapacitated or unreachable. Such documents can also determine the distribution of property upon a person's death. Should an individual become physically or mentally disabled, a durable power of attorney can name a responsible party to make medical decisions on his or her behalf.

A will is an important document because it determines how assets are distributed while also allowing a guardian to be named for minor children. A revocable trust or personal property memorandum can supplement a will to coordinate the disruption of life insurance, annuities and retirement accounts. Also, certain assets can be given away during a person's lifetime or upon his or her death to minimize transfer taxes. Additionally, smart estate planning can involve predetermining charitable donations, taking steps to protect family wealth from frivolous lawsuits and claims and establishing important wealth planning goals for future generations.

One way someone looking to create a personalized estate plan can simplify the process is by working with an attorney. In some cases, discussing estate plans sparks a productive discussion with adult children about family wealth and various financial concepts. The role of a lawyer is to clearly explain all available options, answer questions and prepare appropriate documents.

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