Eleven years ago, I published an article in DeNovo, formerly the magazine for the Young Lawyers Division of the Washington State Bar Association, entitled “Rebel without a Cause (or a Will) – Meeting the needs of younger clients.” The article, written for lawyers, provided tips on working with younger clients regarding the estate planning process. But what happens if someone believes they are too young, healthy, and invincible to need estate planning?

Let’s look at the facts. In examining the 2019 statistics for death rates in the United States by age, these are the death rates for young adults per 100,000 of population:

  • 15-24 years old – 138.11
  • 25 – 34 years old – 255.9
  • 35 – 44 years old – 398.6

According to a recent survey by Caring.com, in 2022 the percentages of young Americans who have completed estate planning are as follows:

  • 18-34 years old – 24%
  • 35 – 54 years old – 27%

I would venture to guess that very few deceased people under age forty-four anticipated that they would die in advance. Likely, most of those people thought they were healthy and invincible – until the day that they weren’t. And unfortunately, a meager percentage, well under thirty percent, of those people had engaged in estate planning to give their families and friends a legally valid roadmap for administering the estate. Instead, their assets were likely distributed by both the laws of intestate succession, which varies among the states, as well as any beneficiary designations provided for non-probate assets which they may have put in place. Creditors do not magically disappear upon your death and must also be accounted for as part of the estate administration process.

My DeNovo article quoted James Dean, who unexpectedly died at age 24 in an automobile accident, “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.” James Dean’s advice holds true today: young adults should plan ahead, but hope their plan won’t come into effect for a very long time to come.

1Note that anyone can legally execute estate planning documents at age 18.

This post is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting with an attorney.

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