Estate Planning at Every Stage of Life

By Brett Gottlieb

Most people think that if you’re not an older person, estate planning isn’t important. But that’s just not true!

Regardless of your age, estate planning is essential. Whether you’re a single young adult, married with kids, a pre-retiree, or a senior citizen concerned about safeguarding your legacy, it’s wise to plan your financial future so you can feel confident that your loved ones are taken care of.

To help clarify this subject, I wrote this article to shine a light on the estate-planning tasks needed at every stage of life.

Young Adults

Although 18 may seem like a young age to start estate planning, nobody can truly know what the future holds. Because life is so unpredictable, any adult over 18 should have these crucial estate-planning documents in place:

  • Financial Durable Power of Attorney: Should you become incapacitated, this legal document lets you designate someone to oversee your assets and make financial decisions on your behalf.
  • Preliminary Medical Directive: The two most important medical directives are (1) Living Will, also known as a Declaration to Physicians, and (2) Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, also known as a healthcare proxy. Each state has a unique form for their medical directive, so consult an estate planning professional to verify the appropriate forms.

Unmarried Couples

If you and your partner made the decision to stay together forever but haven’t formalized your relationship with a marriage license, things can get a little tricky. Even while it might seem clear that you would want your life partner as your heir, this won’t happen automatically unless you have a trust or formal will in place. Since your spouse is not legally considered a relative, your assets could wind up going to unexpected family members, leaving your partner with nothing.

Other planning choices exist for specific categories of assets. You might, for instance, co-own a house, car, or bank account. If you own the asset jointly with rights of survivorship, it can automatically pass to the surviving partner upon the death of the other partner.

Married Couples With and Without Kids

Even if you do have a marriage license, that doesn’t mean your estate can automatically get passed to your spouse if you pass away without an estate plan.

In addition, laws regarding distribution of assets for married couples vary from state to state. Since most states follow “common law,” each spouse is free to possess property on their own. Regardless, in states that are classified as “community property,” each spouse is required to hold half of the assets and income.

When you have kids, estate planning becomes even more important. First, both parents should have a will. Wills are essential for parents because they allow you to name a guardian for your children. If you both pass away without a will, a court can name a guardian, and that person might not be the same one you would have selected.

Also, if you don’t have a will, some states require that, in the event of your death, some of your property could go directly to your minor children, bypassing your spouse. Then your spouse would have to get court permission to manage the children’s assets for them.


By your 40s and 50s, you might have amassed some wealth and possessions. This is when retirement planning and estate planning start to intersect. These things are equally significant—taking care of yourself as you age is just as important as having your beneficiaries taken care of when you pass away.

Even though Social Security might still be available when you retire, those benefits likely won’t be enough on their own. Deferred savings plans like traditional and Roth IRAs are smart financial strategies for you to consider if you haven’t done it already.

Older Adults or Those With Declining Health

If you’re an older adult or have serious health concerns, this is the ideal time to create an estate plan. In addition to a durable power of attorney and a healthcare directive, think about establishing a revocable living trust if your estate plan consists of a will or if you don’t have a plan at all.

If you already have an estate plan in place but you haven’t checked it lately, take a look now to verify it’s current. A lot of financial institutions won’t honor what they consider “stale” Durable Power of Attorneys (DPOAs). Each state has different rules for updating DPOAs, so take a look at yours as soon as possible to make sure it complies with your state’s requirements.

Are You Prepared?

Regardless of your age, you need to be prepared to leave a lasting legacy.

Our team at Comprehensive Advisor encourages you to work with a financial advisor who can assess your unique situation and help you make estate-planning decisions that align with your individual values and stage of life.

Reach out to us by emailing or calling (760) 813-2125.

About Our Advisors

Brett Gottlieb is the founder of Comprehensive Advisor and a financial advisor with nearly two decades of industry experience. He graduated from California State University-Chico with two bachelor’s degrees, in business administration and economics, and is Life Insurance licensed in several states. He is passionate about guiding his clients on retirement income planning, helping each client pursue their specific retirement goals, and defending the assets his clients have worked so hard to achieve. Brett is a California native and currently resides in San Elijo Hills with his beautiful wife and three children.

Our team of qualified professionals have experience in the financial service industry, and our advisors hail from some of the largest independent broker/dealers and banking institutions in the country. They have dedicated their professional careers to creating personalized financial strategies for individuals and families who seek successful retirement planning and currently offer investment advisory services through AE Wealth Management, LLC. Our advisors take a common-sense approach to the planning process and work with clients to create a comprehensive retirement roadmap to help ensure their assets are preserved and they receive the income needed to enjoy their future. Based in Carlsbad, California, they work with clients throughout San Diego County and beyond. Learn more by connecting with Brett on LinkedIn or email them at

Investment advisory products and services made available through AE Wealth Management, LLC (AEWM), a Registered Investment Advisor. Insurance products are offered through the insurance business C.A. Financial & Insurance Services. Comprehensive Advisor, LLC is an Investment Advisory practice that offers products and services through AE Wealth Management LLC (AEWM), a Registered Investment Advisor. AEWM does not offer insurance products. The insurance products offered by C.A. Financial & Insurance Services are not subject to investment Advisor requirements. CA Ins. Lic. #6000262. This material is intended to provide general information and is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. Any references to protection benefits, safety, security, lifetime income, etc., generally refer to fixed insurance products, never securities or investment products. Insurance and annuity product guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. Neither the firm nor its agents or representatives may give tax or legal advice. Individuals should consult with a qualified professional for guidance before making any purchasing decisions. 2425406 – 5/24


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