Everyone needs an estate plan. No exceptions.

It was determined recently that more than half of the Baby Boomers in America do not have an estate plan and should know more about estate planning, according to Country Living in “Everything Baby Boomers Need to Know About Estate Planning.”

The first and most fundamental fact: everyone needs an estate plan. Whether you are wealthy or just getting by, older or a young parent, you need to have an estate plan.

Estate planning doesn’t have to be scary or complicated. Many people feel that creating a will and other related documents will be overwhelming.  However, it doesn’t have to be. An experienced estate planning attorney will help by teaching you what your particular situation requires. It won’t take as long as you think. The time and expense you save your heirs make having a professional do this for you well worth the money spent.

You can make a difference with your estate plan. Many people use their estate plans to give to a charity or cause that is important to them. Many use a charitable gift in their will, known as a “bequest,” to leave money behind—often the biggest donation they make. It’s a way to build a legacy and know that you’ve contributed to making the world—or a small corner of it—a better place.

If your family includes minor children, or adult children with disabilities such that they would be unable to effectively advocate for themselves, you need a document that nominates a legal guardian, in the event that you and their other parent become incapacitated or die. You don’t want a judge making this decision without direct input from you. You can also appoint someone who will be in charge of the finances for your children.

If you have “furry kids,” aka pets, you can also choose a who will care for them. Many pets end up in animal shelters, because no one in the family can take care of them and no provisions have been made for their care. You can also establish a pet trust or other arrangement so money for their care is provided.

Do it early and often. Creating your estate plan is just the first step. An estate plan need to be updated, as your circumstances and laws change. Many people update plans after a trigger event such as marriage, birth, death or divorce. But laws and assets change, too.

The will is just the beginning of an estate plan. There are several basic documents that will protect you while you are alive and after you have passed. They include a durable power of attorney, which determines who can make financial decisions on your behalf, if you are ill and cannot do so.

You also need a Health Care Proxy that appoints someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, should you be unable, and a HIPAA Authorization to grant access to key persons to your doctors and medical records.

Finally, accounts where you have named a beneficiary should be reviewed every now and then. The beneficiary designations most commonly are associated with retirement plans (like IRAs and 401(k)s) and life insurance. The designation bypasses your will and any trusts (unless your estate or trust is named as the beneficiary), so make sure you know what these are and update them as life changes.

An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances, Baby Boomer or not.

Reference: Country Living (Aug. 17, 2018) “Everything Baby Boomers Need to Know About Estate Planning”