In New York State and across the United States, recent events have shown just how quickly a person’s fortunes can turn. This is true for everyone whether they are young or old, healthy or have medical issues. To be fully prepared for the future, a comprehensive estate plan with documents that address an individual’s concerns is more important than ever. Younger people who are just starting out in their adult life and have yet to prepare these vital documents are especially vulnerable to unexpected problems and should be proactive in addressing them.

There are fundamental aspects of an estate plan that should be understood from the start. A will is one of the most basic parts of an estate plan. It is relatively simple to create and details where the testator’s property goes after death. The named executor, who is chosen by the testator, oversees the distribution of assets after death. In general, a person often picks a family member as the executor; but it can be anyone who is deemed trustworthy enough to adhere to the testator’s wishes. For those who are young and just getting started, they might not have significant assets. Still, it is just as critical for them to have a will as it is for someone who is established, owns property and has children.

Children under 18 are a common worry. People ask themselves, “What happens to my child if something happens to me?” This can be addressed with a guardianship. A guardianship lets a trusted person care for the child and do all tasks that a parent would otherwise do.

Health care choices are also at the forefront of any estate plan. A medical proxy can be used to name someone to make health decisions if the testator becomes unable to do so on his or her own. It specifies what can and cannot be done to provide care to a person who is ill or in distress. An advance directive, living will and power of attorney documents can also be used to establish how the testator wants to be cared for should they become incapacitated. A living will provides direction on the type of medical treatment the person will receive if he or she needs it to remain alive. For example, some people do not want to be placed on a respirator. A feeding tube could be needed if a person can no longer ingest food and liquids without it. People may not want to live this way and say so with their living will.

Crafting an estate plan can be intimidating. However, if the unexpected happens a person is suddenly facing the prospect of a future without having addressed critical issues about their loved ones, their medical care and their possessions, they inevitably regret not taking this relatively simple step. For information and help with an estate plan, professional advice is key. Contacting professionals who are experienced in wills, trusts and estates is a step in the right direction.