When to Start Thinking About Estate Planning
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Hi. My name is James Baron. I am a special education law and special needs estate planning attorney located in Waltham, Massachusetts. Today for About.com I am going to discuss the topic of when you should get started with an estate plan.If you are over the age of 18, the short answer is now. Just about everyone can benefit from an estate plan. If you have any possessions, investments, bank accounts, or property, and are concerned about how those items will be distributed to your loved ones upon your death, you should have a will. A will can also be useful if you have minor children and would like to nominate a guardian for those children if you pass away.But regardless of whether or not you need a will, let's consider other aspects of an estate plan. What would happen if you were unconscious and unable to make important medical decisions for yourself? Who would make those decisions? You can name that person ahead of time by creating a Health Care proxy. This has nothing to do with property or death, and everything to do with making medical decisions while you are still alive, but unable to make those decisions Yourself.Let's play this out a little bit further. Not only can you name the person who will be making medical decisions for you if you're unable to, you can also provide guidance to them about decisions you would like made. For example, maybe you do not want to be placed on a ventilator or on a feeding tube.You can specify your wishes in a document called an Advance Directive. These are also sometimes called Living Wills. Again, this is a very important medical decision that an estate plan can be helpful with that has absolutely nothing to do with how much money you have or how much property you own.Perhaps you also want to name somebody who can act on your behalf in areas other than just medical decisions. This is where a durable power of attorney can be helpful, and again is another reason why you might want to consider an estate plan.A durable power of attorney is a document that gives another person the right to legally act on your behalf. It is a detailed document that lists very specific powers that you are granting to another individual. For example, the person who you name in the durable power of attorney document might be able to make financial transactions on your behalf, collect debts that are open to you, pay debts that you owe, pay taxes for you, buy or sell investments, manage property, and access your safe deposit box.There are many, many more powers which can be granted in this document. A durable power of attorney document takes effect immediately when you sign it, and endures even if you become incapacitated, which is what makes the document durable.Thanks for watching. To learn more about this topic, please visit About.com.