When I hear the term "estate planning," I picture a wealthy grey-haired couple meeting with an attorney to make decisions about their assets. While this may be one scenario, the truth is anyone age 18 or older needs to consider estate planning. The two essential legal documents everyone should have are a will and a living will. You may be thinking, “I don't have kids or many assets, so why do I need a will?" But the truth is once you turn 18, you are legally an adult and there are restrictions on who can make decisions for you.

What is a will?

A will is also referred to as a last will and testament. It names who is responsible for carrying out your wishes once you die. This person is known as the executor. It also states what the executor is to do with all your things. This includes your car, your house, and any insurance policies you have. Most importantly, it establishes legal guardianship for your children and care for your fur babies! Without a will, your possessions can be sold to pay debts or can be given to anyone who claims them. It is very important to note that a last will and testament is only active once you pass away!

What is a living will?

A living will outlines your preferences for medical care if you are unable to communicate or make decisions for yourself. Also known as an advance directive, your living will specifies whether or not you would like to be resuscitated, placed on life support, or even given experimental drugs. It also states your burial wishes. Would you rather be cremated than buried? Write it in your living will. It can be as simple or complicated as you would like it to be. Your living will is in force before your death and often includes a healthcare power of attorney. Assigning someone to have a power of attorney is crucial because it will allow medical professionals to speak to that person about your condition should you become incapacitated. Not even your parents can override the choices you list in your living will.

Do you need a lawyer?

Simple estate planning can be done on your own with a little help from websites like Legal Zoom, Mama Bear Legal Forms, and Rocket Lawyer. They can simplify the process at affordable prices. Preparing now can ensure you have a direct say in how you are cared for and your assets managed. It also eliminates the need for your loved ones to make tough decisions during an emotional time.