Thinking beyond ‘Who should inherit my stuff?’

Once Americans reach the age of majority, their parents are generally no longer empowered to make legal decisions on their behalf. As a result, Americans older than 17 need to draft estate plans in order to preserve certain legal protections and preferences.

You may not yet have an estate plan because you do not have significant financial assets or children. However, it is vitally important that you seek an attorney’s guidance in drafting an estate plan even if you do not need to plan for asset distribution after death or guardianship for minor children.

Health care directives

An estate plan is comprised of a series of living documents. This means that while these documents are legally binding upon their proper execution, they may generally be revisited and revised as your needs, relationships, property ownership and preferences change throughout your lifetime.

Some of the most important¬†things that can be addressed in an estate planinvolve health care. In the event that a minor suffers a serious physical injury or illness, his or her parents have the authority to determine that child’s care. But when an adult falls gravely ill or suffers serious injury, that adult needs to outline how he or she intends to make decisions related to necessary care.

By drafting health care directives as part of an estate plan, you can detail your preferences regarding end-of-life care. In addition, you can ensure that in the event of your incapacitation, whomever you most trust to make health care decisions on your behalf has the legal authority to do so.

Everything else

In addition to health care directives, estate plans can address a variety of other important subjects. For example, an increasing number of estate plans address the matter of who will have authorization to interact with and/or shut down an individual’s social media accounts once that individual has died or become incapacitated. Understandably, you may want certain loved ones to stay away from your social media accounts. Legally designating a trusted loved one to have control over your social media accounts after you die will better ensure that your preferences are honored.

Also, estate plans can help to ensure that sentimental personal property is distributed according to a person’s wishes. Finally, estate plans provide excellent legal protection for the traditional matters of asset distribution and minor child guardianship in the event of a parent’s untimely death or incapacitation.