Have you given thought to planning your estate? Too many people think they have plenty of time to worry about this important task, but life is fleeting, and anything can happen. Estate planning isn't just for older adults or people with money.

Medical events, dementia, divorce, marriage, the birth or death of a child or spouse, and a sudden disability can all necessitate the need for having a plan in place or making changes to your plan. Here are the things you should do before making an appointment with an estate planning attorney.

Compile Your Assets

In addition to your bank account, you likely have real estate, life insurance, vehicles, and personal assets, such as jewelry or artwork. Many people also have certificates of deposit, stocks, mutual funds, and retirement accounts just to name a few. Make a list of everything you own of value. Note value as well as account information.

Determine Who Has Healthcare Power of Attorney

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) changed many things, including protecting patient's medical privacy. No longer can family members automatically ask questions about a loved one's health status.

For example, in the past, if your mother was suddenly hospitalized, you could call and ask to speak to the doctor about her condition. With HIPPA, the rules are much stricter on who can have information and make medical decisions. If you are married, your spouse will automatically have the right to discuss your medical information and care with doctors.

If you are unmarried or wish to specifically include someone else or exclude your spouse, you need to choose someone who will act on your behalf should you no longer be able to make medical decisions for yourself.

Determine Who Has Financial Power of Attorney

A person who has financial power of attorney makes financial decisions on your behalf when you become unable to do so on your own, either because of illness, disability, dementia, or death. Many people elect to have the same person who has their healthcare power of attorney also act as their financial power of attorney.

However, you do not need to elect the same people to handle both tasks. For example, you may opt to entrust your son to carry out your healthcare wishes but choose a different family member or an attorney to take care of the financial power of attorney.

Keep in mind, spouses do not automatically have financial power of attorney over all your assets. Assets that are held jointly will be decided by your spouse, but property you solely own will require a financial power of attorney.