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Why People of All Ages Need an Estate Plan

Some may have a common misconception that estate planning is all about dying and leaving your wealth to heirs. The truth is that some form of estate planning is necessary at every stage of your life, regardless of the value of your assets. At MacDowell Law Group, we guide clients of all ages through their options for executing important documents. The earlier you start, the easier it will be to build upon the plan as you get older, but it’s never too late to work with a lawyer on an estate plan.

Even if you are still a student and your primary residence is with your parents, once you turn 18, you are an adult, and your parents or guardians can no longer make legal decisions for you or act on your behalf. In case anything happens to you, it’s a good idea to have the following:

Powers of attorney

Health care and financial powers of attorney are documents that designate a representative to act on your behalf if you are incapacitated. Until you turned 18, your parents or legal guardians could do these things, but now they need legal clearance to do so. You can name your parents or a significant other or friend.

HIPAA release

This document allows medical facilities to release information about you to the people you have named in the release. As a college student away from home, this is vital so your parents can talk to your doctors if you are injured or ill in the hospital.

Beneficiary designations

Once you get your first job with benefits such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies, you will need to name beneficiaries of these funds in case something happens to you. Beneficiaries can be anyone you choose and can be changed later.

What to Add to Your Estate Plan When You Get Married and Have Children

In your 30s and 40s, you might be getting married and having children. The documents you executed in your 20s will probably need to be updated to designate your spouse and children as representatives and beneficiaries. In addition, you will need the following:

A will

As you obtain property and build wealth, a will is a necessary document to express your wishes about what should happen to your assets if you die unexpectedly. While your spouse will automatically take over any shared property or accounts, you can designate other heirs as well.

Guardians for minor children

As soon as you have a baby, you should update your will to include guardians for your children in case something happens to you and your spouse. Guardians should be updated as necessary over the years until your children turn 18.


The more you have in assets, the more important it is to establish a revocable living trust. This is a smart way to leave money to your children or other heirs while avoiding the Virginia probate process.

Empty Nesters and Retirees Need to Keep Their Estate Plans Up to Date

Even if you have a solid basic estate plan before you turn 50, it will require updating as your children grow up and move out, you get divorced and remarry, you inherit from your parents, or you or your spouse get a scary medical diagnosis. If you have a trust-based estate plan, you will need to continue placing new assets into it as you acquire them. In addition, you should consider the following:

Advance directives

If you begin to have medical concerns as you get older, your doctor will likely talk you through the importance of making your end-of-life wishes clear. This can take the form of a document in your estate plan.

Medicaid trust

If you do not have significant resources or a retirement income, you might consider an asset-protection trust that will allow you to qualify for Medicaid to pay for a nursing home while protecting funds for your heirs. An estate planning attorney can discuss this option with you.

MacDowell Law Group Can Guide You Through the Estate Planning Process

Whether you are starting from scratch as a young adult or need to revise a plan in retirement, MacDowell Law Group can help. Please contact us online or call our Fairfax, Virginia, law office at 703.277.2811 to schedule your free consultation. We help clients throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia and look forward to helping you.