As the holiday season approaches, families are gathering to celebrate traditions, create memories, and exchange gifts. For young families, the holidays take on an added layer of magic as they navigate the joy of building traditions with each other and sometimes their little ones. It’s a time of excitement, but it’s also an opportune moment to reflect on the future and take steps to protect the growing assets of your budding family.
Just as we hang ornaments on the tree, starting with a few cherished pieces and gradually expanding our collection over the years, young families can view estate planning as a way to build a foundation that grows with time. At this stage, your young family may have fewer assets compared to more established households, but it’s precisely the right time to start considering and protecting what you have and those you love. The core elements of estate planning lay the groundwork for your family’s financial security and well-being.
Families in the newer generation navigate a unique set of challenges. Below is a non-exhaustive list of scenarios this generation must consider when thinking about estate planning:
- Limited financial resources compared to more established families. A lack of excess resources can make it challenging to prioritize estate planning when immediate needs, such as housing, student loans, and childcare, demand attention.
- Decisions about guardianship of young children. This decision is emotionally charged and can be particularly challenging as it involves envisioning scenarios where both parents are unable to care for their children – a concern not shared by those with adult children.
- Managing student loan debt. Many young couples carry significant student loan debt. In the event of the death of a spouse, the responsibility for this debt can be transferred to the surviving spouse. Estate planning should consider how to manage and mitigate this financial burden.
- Digital assets and online presence. The younger generation tends to have a significant online presence with digital assets such as social media accounts, blogs, and cryptocurrency. A good estate plan needs to account for the management and distribution of these digital assets, which may require specific instructions and access details.
- Changing financial goals. Young couples may experience significant changes in their financial goals over a short period. Career advancements, property acquisitions, and growing family needs can alter the financial landscape, requiring adjustments to the estate plan to align with evolving objectives.
Much like the ornament collection that starts small and accumulates over the years, the beauty of estate planning for young families lies in its scalability. Begin with the essentials – a will, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives—and as your family grows, revisit and expand your plan to accommodate changing needs.
One of the most fundamental aspects of estate planning is creating a will. This document outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of assets and, more importantly, allows you to name a guardian for your children. As young parents, the thought of someone else caring for your children may be daunting, but it’s a necessary consideration for their future in the event you or your spouse cannot. A will’s instructions are like the ornaments hanging from your tree, guiding the overall direction of your décor.
In the spirit of the holidays, consider powers of attorney and healthcare directives like the lights on your tree. They add depth to your estate planning tree that ornaments can’t provide alone. A power of attorney designates someone to handle your financial affairs if you’re unable to do so, while healthcare directives specify your medical preferences. These documents ensure that your wishes are known and respected, providing a foundation for your family’s well-being.
As you celebrate the holidays with family gatherings and festive decorations, consider estate planning as a practical and meaningful gift for your loved ones—a way to prioritize their well-being and ensure a secure future. Just as families and traditions evolve, so should our estate plans. Take a moment to revisit and update your estate plan, allowing it to adapt, similar to the growth of your family. If you’re thinking about estate planning, consider seeking guidance from an estate planning specialist that can be by your side as your family changes to navigate the process effectively. It’s a straightforward way to build a legacy of security and prosperity for your young family.
The information provided is not intended to be legal or tax advice and does not constitute any attorney/client relationship. You should consult with an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
Ms. Melancon is an attorney with Legacy Estate & Elder Law of Louisiana, LLC with offices in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lake Charles, LA. The primary focus of her practice is estate planning, probate, special needs planning, and elder law. For more information or to attend an upcoming estate planning seminar, call her office at (225) 744-0027.