What if We’re Thinking About This All Wrong?

What if I told you that you’re thinking about estate planning the wrong way? 

What if I told you that estate planning is NOT a task to dread doing, to be put off, or something ‘other people’ need? 

What if, instead, that first legal consult and document prep fell into the same category as being able to get your driver’s license at age 16, being able to vote at 18 and that first legal drink as the clock strikes midnight on your 21st birthday? What if it was one more stepping stone into adulthood? What if? And more importantly, why not?

If you follow us on Facebook (if you don’t, you can do that HERE) you’ve probably seen some of the live videos I’ve been doing there. Short videos about what’s happening in the office. Stories of fairly typical things going on for our clients. Names are changed to protect privacy, of course, and stories are shared with the intent of helping others, never to embarrass or shame anyone.

One of my recent videos was about our Young Adult’s Estate Plan. As newly minted adults are heading off to college, they need their own legal plan – what we dubbed a Young Adult’s Estate Plan. It’s a bare-bones version of an estate plan that covers the necessities every adult should have in place.

And that’s just it. ‘EVERY’ adult. 

I have a dream of shifting how we think about estate planning. Estate planning isn’t just about protecting wealth and setting up dynasties. Estate planning is about basic, legal protections that every adult in our country is entitled to.

There’s a great country song out, Sixteen by Thomas Rhett.  (Yes, I’m a country music fan.)  It’s all about “arriving” at that next milestone and the privileges that come with the age.  What if estate planning (which is a confusing term in itself, because it’s not about owning an estate at all…) What if family legal planning became a privilege of being an adult? A rite of passage for turning 18. How do we shift the next generations into adopting that belief?

And that’s where I don’t have an answer. 

But here’s what I do know.  Only about 30-40% of people do any legal planning. What’s up with that?!?!

Caring.com recently did a survey and got some really interesting results. They found that about 40% of people have some kind of plan. Less than half. What was really troubling is that more than 80% of young adults have absolutely nothing! 

Why don’t people do any legal planning? Overwhelmingly because they just haven’t gotten around to it. But if we thought differently about legal planning, that wouldn’t happen. How many 16 year olds don’t ‘get around to’ getting their driver’s license? How many 21 year olds don’t ‘get around to’ celebrating their first drink?!

I’m working with a family right now. Great people. Very down to earth. They look at life from the perspective of options and choices. And it simply never dawned on them that they wouldn’t have some kind of legal plan for themselves and their family. For them, it had nothing to do with ‘getting around to it.’ It was just a basic belief that it would get done.

Now they’re teaching their children the same thing. Their children are all between the ages of 18 and 30, and they all now have a foundational estate plan. They have a relationship with our office and will have the support structure they need to make sure they’re protected through all phases of life. And the best part is, they’ll just do it because it makes sense. There won’t be a question or discussion about it.

I have another friend who ‘gifted’ her boys with a foundational estate plan when each one turned 18. Not a super sexy gift, but an important one, that came with the underlying message – Congratulations! We recognize you’re an adult, and you are worth protecting.

Let’s start a new rite of passage at age 18: the Young Adult’s Estate Plan. It consists of a Health Care Proxy to name someone to make medical decisions, a HIPAA Release to authorize the sharing of medical information with key people, and a Durable Power of Attorney to name someone who can handle anything else that might come up. That’s it. Just the basics. We can throw in a Will too if they have specific ideas of who they want to get their stuff beyond what the law already provides for.  

Because you don’t need an estate or dependents or even “stuff” to need an estate plan — not when we’re talking about the basic health care and decision-making proxies you’d need should something injurious or fatal happen. Accidents don’t care how old you are.

Do you have a young adult in your life who needs a foundational estate plan? Want to set up the young adults in your life with the basic legal protections we’re ALL entitled to? Let us know by CLICKING HERE and we can hop on the phone for a quick chat.


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