Much like estate planning is not for the old, considering elder law issues is not something for just the elderly to consider and work through. A young adult at the ripe age of 18 could begin this process; however, no matter when an individual begins the elder law estate planning process, it is important to note that there are different stages of this process. While drafting an estate plan that deals with elder law issues is the first step, the next step is to continually update the documents contained in an estate plan.
As life events occur, whether they are unique to the individual or something that has occurred nationally or worldwide, it is important to revisit one’s estate plan. Even a person as young as 18 years of age could have an estate plan that requires revisions. No matter what phase of life a person is in, an estate plan should begin with documents that address what would happen if he or she suddenly falls seriously ill or is severely injured.
A power of attorney, healthcare proxy and living will are all documents that are referred to as advanced directives. These documents are used to indicate the individual or individuals that you are chosen to make legal, financial and medical decisions for you if you are unable to. While incapacitation could occur later in one’s life, the reality is that it is something that could happen at any age for any reason. Thus, in order to avoid the expenses, time and frustration to goes with the guardianship proceedings to appoint a legal guardian if you were suddenly incapacitated, one should include these documents in their estate plan even if they are young and healthy.
Now that one has an estate plan in place and has included advance directives in it, it is important to continually note what life event may trigger a revision. Aging could simply be an event. You are more mature, you have lived a full life and whom you trust to make these decisions for you may have changed. Other events could include marriage, divorce, re-marriage, the birth of children and receiving an inheritance. When a person’s estate changes, who they seek to leave their belongings to can change and who they trust to make decisions for them if they are deemed incapacitated can change as well.
The estate planning process is a continual one. It does not end when an individual establishes one. Because it is something that needs to be revisited throughout one’s life, it is important one is aware of when and how to do this successfully.