Many young couples do not plan for their death or disability because they either: 1) don’t think they need an estate plan, or 2) don’t think they can afford one. Neither is true. Even a healthy young adult can suddenly become incapacitated or pass away due to an accident or illness. While this is not likely, if you have a spouse or children, it is irresponsible to not plan for this possibility. And it does not have to be expensive. A young family can start with basic legal documents, then update and upgrade as their financial and family situation changes.

If you are a parent of a minor child, your biggest estate planning concern is who will raise your children if both you and your spouse pass away. If both parents pass away, a Court will appoint a guardian for any minor children. North Carolina law provides that parents are presumed to know what is in the best interest of their children and that a recommendation in your Will “shall be a strong guide for the clerk in appointing a guardian.” If tragedy strikes your family, both the Clerk of Court and your family members would like to know your wishes. Leaving these instructions in your Will can also keep your family members from fighting over this issue. This can be a hard decision. Not making a decision doesn’t make the problem go away. You can always change your mind. 

You should also be concerned about your child’s financial future. Unless your assets are left to the trustee of a trust that you create in your estate plan, a Court will appoint someone to oversee your children’s inheritance. This could be a stranger to your family, who will be paid to handle your child's money. Another problem with a guardianship is that your children will receive their inheritance when they reach the age of 18. Most people who are married wish for their assets to go to their surviving spouse at their death. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. All of these problems can be avoided by creating a testamentary trust for your children. You can designate that your assets be paid to your trust, specify who will manage that money, how the money should be managed, and when your children may take control of the assets. 

There is always a possibility that you could become disabled or incapacitated. If that happens, your spouse will not automatically have the authority to make decisions for you. Everyone should have documents in place naming substitute decision makers in the case of incapacity. If you have young children, this is even more important.  

If you are young and have a family, you owe it to your spouse and children to make sure they are taken care of if you are suddenly removed from their lives.