4 Reasons to Think About Estate Planning, Even if You’re Not a Millionaire | Sponsored | Money & Investing | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

It’s funny how the phrase “estate planning” can instantly conjure up the image of a Rolls Royce gliding up the driveway of a mansion straight out of The Great Gatsby (or, more topically, “Schitt’s Creek”). But its antiquated, ostentatious name doesn’t make it any less relevant to the average Joe—even if he’s a 30-something still paying off his student loans or a single parent whose paycheck immediately disappears into a pile of expenses.

Because dying sucks, and we should all endeavor to do it with the most grace possible (and that includes the legacy we leave behind), we’ve rounded up four reasons you should consider estate planning at any age or income level.

1. You have kids

This one shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s still worth stating. If you have kids, you should definitely consider setting up a will. “You’ll want to name a legal guardian and make a plan for who is managing their money,” says Michael Wagner, Esq., senior counsel at Walden-based firm Jacobowitz & Gubits. In New York State, your children are your next-of-kin, but if they’re too young to drive themselves to school, let alone manage their own finances, then it’s worth talking to an attorney about how to best provide for them in the future.

2. You don’t have kids

It’s easy to assume the process of finalizing your estate is easier without kids. But things can actually get a lot trickier, especially if you want to give your assets to close friends or charity.

When someone dies, their closest relatives are required to be involved in the probate proceeding—a court process that governs estate distributions. Careful estate planning must be done in circumstances where these family members are not the beneficiaries, and may be likely to contest the will. Some people consider using trusts to eliminate the probate process and make challenges more difficult.

3. You're a pet parent

For a lot of us, our pets are our families, too. But your pets are actually considered your legal property and pass onto your beneficiaries with everything else you own. Thinking ahead about a friend or family member who would welcome that responsibility can ensure your pet will get to live with someone who loves them as much as you do. You can make a private arrangement for your pets, but it’s possible to include them in your will or even set up a trust for their expenses.

4. You live online

This last one will probably hit home for most of us. Our digital lives are increasingly robust; from our social media and email accounts to that collection of Kindle ebooks and the unfinished memoir saved on Google Docs. According to Wagner, “You can leave the executor of your estate the rights to any digital intellectual property, but that will be subject to the platform’s terms of use.” For instance, companies such as Facebook and Apple can have terms of use that dictate what happens to your data when you pass away. So as more and more services migrate online, it’s becoming just as important to think about what’s left online as what’s left in the garage.

Michael Wagner, Esq., is senior counsel concentrating in elder law and estate planning. You can learn more about the law firm of Jacobowitz & Gubits at jacobowitz.com.

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