When is the Time Right for an Estate Plan?
By Barbara Craig, Attorney at Law
Most everyone aged 50 or older has had a colonoscopy or is well aware they should and has an excuse why they haven’t done it yet. The medical profession tells us it is painless and nothing to dread, and those who have lived through it know that advice is mostly true.
What is even more true is that working with an attorney to create an estate plan is painless and nothing to dread and is something that everyone should do by the age of 50 if they haven’t done so already.
Ideally, an estate plan should be created or updated upon the major milestones of adult life – getting married, buying a house, having a child. But if these major events have come and gone and an estate plan has not been taken care of, then it should be done no later than your 50th year.
The risk of death or incapacity rises significantly beginning at age 50, particularly for men. Putting important estate planning documents in place – such as powers of attorney, a last will and testament, and a trust – should not be put off any longer.
Although many people are uncomfortable thinking about, much less talking about death, after my clients have completed their estate plans with me, they often say the process gives them a new sense of security. Knowing that they have taken positive steps to protect themselves and their families against the inevitable provides them great peace of mind.
Aside from the emotional benefits, a comprehensive estate plan has enormous practical benefits. An estate plan which includes a revocable living trust avoids the time and cost to probate an estate after death. In California, probate is very costly – even a modest estate of $500,000 will result in $26,000 of fees. An estate plan with a trust also prevents the state of California from recovering the cost of certain Medi-Cal benefits used by the decedent prior to their death. Given the relatively low cost of an estate plan – about $2,000 – the return on that investment is quite high.
If you’ve reached the age of 50 without an estate plan, don’t put it off any longer. You’ll rest easier knowing you’ve taken care of it for yourself and your family. And I promise it won’t hurt even a little bit.