Yes, you do!
I know that “estate” sounds awfully fancy. You might be picturing Downton Abbey: acres and acres of land, a staff of dozens, a house that’s hundreds of years old. It’s certainly not a lifestyle most of us can relate to.
I often get this reaction when I talk about estate planning. “I don’t have anything,” people will say, in explaining why they do not need a will. In my experience, you probably have more than you think- and, as we’ll get to below, estate planning is as much about you as it is about your assets.
So, what is an estate? It’s everything you own. Your home, your car, your personal belongings, your furniture, your bank accounts, your retirement accounts, even your life insurance. If you rent and your only assets are a car, checking account, and maybe an IRA through work, you have an estate. If you just bought a house, lease your car, and have no retirement savings, you have an estate.
And what’s most important, from my perspective, is that you have YOURSELF. Estate planning isn’t just about passing down your assets. It’s about getting a plan in place so that if you’re not able to care for yourself, your wishes are still carried out- whether financially or with your health care decisions.
Estate planning can distribute your property after you pass away. It can help you plan for the care of elderly parents or young children in case something happens to you, and it can be the cornerstone of lifelong security for a disabled child or sibling. Estate planning can also help you through a period of incapacity (after a car accident, for example) when you have many healthy years ahead of you.
So yes, you have an estate. And whether you have millions of dollars or just a bank account and yourself, estate planning is important.