Estate Planning . . . When Should I Do It?

A fellow participant on recently posed this question to me: “Is it too early for a 25 year old to start estate planning?” Of course, I responded, “No” with a brief follow-up explanation based on additional facts that he provided[1]. For those who have read my blog posts and articles on estate planning, you know that anytime is a good time to begin or continue the estate planning process. However, the above referenced question inspired me to think of the pivotal points in my clients’ lives when they chose to begin or continue the process. Following is a list of six life events which, in my experience as an attorney concentrating in estate planning, motivated clients to reach out for planning advice.

Becoming an Adult

Most states, including Illinois, require a person executing a will to be at least 18 years old. Some 18 year-olds or young adults have significant assets that come under their control upon reaching the age of majority. Becoming entitled to assets of significant value after reaching a certain age may require additional planning from the young person’s perspective, particularly if there is no planning in place that governs the assets received by the recipient.

Getting Married

Newly married couples often spend significant time in “forward-thinking” mode, which involves preparing for and building a new life together. Often in this process, couples begin to think of what might happen in the event of the incapacity or death of either of them. Inviting another person into your life through marriage triggers clients to consider planning that addresses these concerns.

Birth of A Child

Parents often say that welcoming a child into their lives changes everything. Having another human being dependent on your ability to provide requires some thought as to what might occur in the event that something happens to either parent. Estate planners often help new parents plan for the following: (a) who would best serve as a guardian of minor children in the event that both parents die, (b) how are assets to be handed down to a child upon the death of a parent, and (c) how much control, if any, should a child have in the management of significant family assets as the child matures.

Acquiring Real Estate

Buying real estate is a major motivator for a number of clients to consider their estate planning needs. Often, clients consider how they should hold title to their primary residence so as to plan for the transfer of ownership of a family home upon the owner’s death. Also, real estate investors often use entities, such as LLC’s and partnerships, to own investment properties. Ownership of these entity interests becomes a major planning point in the estate planning process.

Starting a New Business

There are several items that need legal attention when starting a new business. Typically, as a new endeavor begins to thrive, clients begin to consider how ownership of the business will be affected by the death or incapacity of the owner(s). While this type of planning is mainly addressed in business succession planning, it often leads clients to consider how a business interest might affect the client’s estate planning objectives.

Death of A Loved One

Trudging through the probate process on behalf of a loved one who did not have any estate planning in place is a major motivator for clients to begin the process for themselves. Also, the death of one family member may impact another family member’s estate plan in a manner which requires changes to be made to an existing plan.

If you are facing one of these life events or simply want to learn more about the estate planning process, I encourage you to contact an estate planning professional to evaluate and address your specific needs. For other online resources, I invite you to view my blog, “Planning Your Future,” which can be found at the following link:

About the Author

Christopher Floss, an associate attorney at Hoogendoorn & Talbot LLP in Chicago, concentrates his legal practice on estate planning and tax planning. If you wish to learn more about Christopher’s practice, view his biography at the following link:

[1] View the following link to read the question and my response: