You may think that you have plenty of time to worry about making a will or other estate plans, but the truth is that you really never know what the future holds.
One survey found that 78 percent of millennials do not have a will. If you’re in that group, it’s time to start thinking about it. Take a look at some of the factors you should consider when making an estate plan.
Your Digital Legacy
Your generation has grown up with digital devices and social media as a large part of your daily life. Chances are that you handle many of your financial and business affairs online and that a large part of your personal life has been documented on social media sites.
Access to the digital side of your life can be very important to your family in the event of your death or incapacitation. Your spouse, children, or parents may need access to online accounts in order to settle bills or other financial affairs, and they will probably want access to your devices and social media accounts for personal reasons.
You should also know that even if you don’t think you have anything of value online that your family will need to access, your social media sites can be vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves, and your information could be stolen and used in a variety of ways that you wouldn’t approve of. At a minimum, you should have a plan for ensuring that your accounts are shut down after your death.
Because managing a digital legacy can be complex, it’s important to go over the specifics of your digital legacy with your estate attorney to ensure that your loved ones can access needed information, assets and personal effects that are stored digitally.
Chances are that you’ve put a lot of love, effort and money into caring for your furry friends, and you will want to make sure that they’re cared for if they outlive you.
The state of Washington has a law that’s specifically made to help pet owners address this problem. You can create a pet trust. This is a trust fund that will provide someone you designate with money to care for your pet after your death.
You can choose a caregiver for your pet and designate which expenses the trust will cover — food, shelter and veterinary care are commonly designated expenses.
In addition to deciding how your pet will be cared for after your death, you’ll also need to decide what will happen with any funds remaining in the trust once the pet is deceased. For example, you may decide to bequeath the remaining money to the person who cared for your pets, or you may request that it be donated to a charity.
An attorney who handles wills and estates can help you navigate the process of setting up a pet trust.
Your Living Will
In addition to deciding what happens to your assets and dependents after your death, you also need to think about your own end-of-life care. An accident or illness could leave you alive but unable to make decisions for yourself. Your loved ones will need guidance about what actions they should take under these circumstances.
A living will is the document that outlines your wishes in the event that you are in a coma or vegetative state. Would you want to be removed from life support machines? Do you want to be resuscitated in that state?
Even if you’ve discussed these matters with friends or family, it’s important to have them in writing. Deciding whether or not to pull the plug is an incredibly difficult decision for loved ones to make. They may question if your previous remarks were made seriously or if you might have changed your mind at some point. Putting your wishes into a legal document helps ensure that they will be respected and carried out.
It’s never too early to begin making an estate plan. You can always update it as your life circumstances change. An attorney who is familiar with your state’s laws can help you draft an estate plan that addresses the issues that are most important to you.