Conversations with Kim: Estate Planning

My husband’s mother passed recently. She didn’t have a legitimate will when she passed, but she had a handwritten and signed document for what to do with her estate. My husband and his two siblings are having an awful time trying to sort out her affairs and it’s leading to some hostility. My husband and I are still fairly young, but I want to know: is it too early to begin an estate plan? I don’t want our own children going through what my husband is going through once we’re gone. If we make an estate plan now, can we make changes to it later on if our circumstances change?

Thanks for your question. This is outside my specific finance area of expertise, so I reached out to my friends Julie Eisenhower and Leigh Cowden to help answer for us below.

It is never too late to draft an estate plan so long as you have the mental capacity–the cognitive ability to make decisions about your assets and your property–to execute the documents. If a person lacks the mental capacity to curate the documents, they would be unable to do so.

It is always best to be proactive in getting your financial affairs in order, which includes consulting with a licensed attorney about an estate plan and what documents best suit your circumstances and your goals for your estate when you pass away. So long as you maintain the mental capacity, modify your estate plan. A piece of advice: review your estate plan in light of changes in your life circumstances. Estate planning now is truly an ounce of prevention worthy of no headaches and heartache for your loved ones.

~ Julie Eisenhower, Attorney, TriAmicus Law PLLC

Handwritten wills are valid in Tennessee! But they’re a quagmire of misunderstandings about the law usually. I don’t recommend them. 🙂

It’s never too early to start an estate plan, especially if you own any property, have kids, or both. I tell everyone to avoid probate–if possible–due to the expenses, frustration, and risks associated with the public process.

Regardless, I do both Will- and Trust-based plans for people as young as 18, so there is no age limit to start. The earlier, the better!

~Leigh Cowden, Attorney/Founder, Vermillion Law

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