The main problem with the term "estate planning" is that it gives the impression that one needs to have an "estate" of some sort before a plan becomes necessary. Then an estate is equated as something acquired later in life, and that a plan isn't necessary until one is planning for retirement, long-term care, or similar. That's why we prefer to use the term Legal Life PlanTM. If you have any assets (retirement account, home), there is a process that takes care of them after you die. When you don't have a plan, you'll get the government default. Read all about those options here.
Despite what you may have heard or think you know, a Legal Life PlanTM is something we need at almost any age. From about the time you start your first adult job, or have people (spouse, children) depending on you, you need to have a plan in place.
As "adult" life begins—college ends, careers begin in earnest, marriage and family—it's time to start planning. And, the sooner one begins, the better options there are. This earliest phase is called Pre-Planning and though it's generally simple in execution, it's important enough to 1) be done and 2) be done correctly.
The next phase of the Legal Life PlanTM comes as life evolves to include more complicated family situations (grandkids, remarriages), perhaps more assets like retirement accounts and investments, and careers are winding down. People in the Strategic Planning phase are thinking about life after retirement and who will take care of them as they age. Starting in Strategic Planning is important, as there are still a number of options available in this phase. Beginning to plan any later than this is a huge mistake, it can literally cost everything one owns.
Without previous planning, many individuals find themselves or people they love in a situation where they need long-term care immediately, and they need to find a way to pay for it. We call this Crisis Planning, and options here are extremely limited. Of course, solutions exist and things can be done to get these individuals care, but sooner is always better. In this stage, we look toward Medicaid planning, which has it's own difficulties and limitations. You can learn more about Medicaid planning on two of our recent podcasts: Is Medicaid Planning Legal? And Is Medicaid Planning Ethical?
We'd love to help you put a plan in place no matter your phase in life. The sooner you start the better—you'll have many more options and a lower cost to get started. We can build from a basic plan as your life changes, complicates, and your family grows. Contact us today and plan while you can.