Estate Planning for Young(er) Clients: Who needs it? Who doesn’t? Why bother?
Dara R. Cohen, J.
“Estate planning is only for old people, right?”
“Nope, sure isn’t.”
“So, that means everyone needs estate planning, right?”
“That’s not quite right either.”
Estate planning is a valuable service for clients of all ages, not just retirees and grandparents. However, blanket statements that everyone needs professional estate planning are overbroad and impractical. This article will discuss how to determine how clients not-yet-of-a-certain-age can benefit from common estate planning tools and those who can reasonably forego estate planning in a lawyer’s office.
The first question I ask when a relatively young person asks if they need estate planning is, “How much do you care what happens to your stuff when you’re dead?” If that person is not married, has no dependents, owns simple assets, and is comfortable with their beneficiaries as laid out in intestate succession, Utah Code Ann § 75-2-103, they don’t necessarily need an estate plan. Intestate succession is the statutory scheme dictating how assets without a beneficiary will pass to a decedent’s heirs. Most of the time, intestate succession makes logical sense. Some of the time, intestate succession sows emotional and financial chaos, particularly in blended families or families with estranged relatives.
However, estate planning is not solely property disposition at the time of death. It also encompasses planning for incapacity. A person who is not interested in planning for disposition of his or her assets upon death can greatly ease administration upon incapacity with readily available statutory forms. The Utah Advance Health Care Directive can be completed without attorney help. Search “Utah Advance Health Care Directive” on Google; the first link provides the form and instructions. The Utah Advance Health Care Directive, or AHCD, form provides for an agent to make medical decisions and nominates a guardian in the event one becomes necessary.