We tend to think of estate planning as an activity reserved for older adults facing the end of their lives, but it’s equally important to create appropriate estate planning documents for young adults. If you have any college-age children, you may want to consider drafting a few important legal documents to protect them in the event of emergency.
When a young person reaches the age of 18 they are, for legal purposes, considered an adult. This means that their parents no longer have authority to make certain life-decisions for them. Unfortunately, there are sometimes occasions when young adults cannot make decisions on their own behalf. They may be incapacitated by illness or accident, or they may be away from home attending college, and unable to perform certain necessary legal functions. For this reason, it is advisable for them to consent to allowing their parents to act on their behalf.
A durable healthcare power of attorney (POA), or healthcare proxy, can be useful in instances where a young adult needs someone to make healthcare decisions on their behalf. The healthcare power of attorney allows the young person to designate an individual who has the authority to make decisions about their medical treatment, should they be unable to do so. HIPPA authorizations should also be obtained, so that the parental healthcare representative can access the young adult’s medical records without difficulty. By securing these two documents, a parent has the same ability to make decisions about a child’s healthcare as they did before the child turned 18. If they do not, the only way a parent can get permission to act on their own children’s behalf is by obtaining a court order, which is not an optimal way of dealing with an emergency situation.
A living will is a type of advance healthcare directive that sets out the conditions for treatment in cases where the patient has no hope of recovery, and is specific to deathbed issues such as DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders. As such it is significantly more limited in scope and specific in intent than a Durable POA for Healthcare. It is possible, but not necessary, to have both, as the Durable POA for Healthcare covers a broader array of situations, can be written to cover deathbed scenarios, and only takes effect when the patient is incapacitated.
It is also sometimes useful to consider drafting a durable financial power of attorney, which can give parents to ability to make financial decisions for their children after they reach the age of majority. This is useful in situations where the young adult is incapacitated, but it can also be helpful if the young person has legal matters that need to be addressed, but cannot tend to them (if, for instance, the young adult has moved a substantial geographic distance away to attend college, but still has legal or financial matters pending in their home town). It allows the agent named to carry out financial transactions on the young person’s behalf.
Finally, all young adults should have a will. While they may not have accrued much in the way of property or possessions, the existence of a will make it much easier for their loved ones to determine the proper distribution of what they do have, if the worst were to happen. If a young adult joins the military he or she should absolutely prepare a will, as should any young married couples. For most young adults a will is usually a simple, inexpensive document to create, and having a valid last will and testament can save their loves ones a great deal of time, aggravation and money during the probate process.
If you are the parent of a young adult concerned about their well-being, or a young adult who wants to make it easier for those who care about you to help you, call our office at 856-227-7888 or e-mail [email protected] to schedule a free consultation.
The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.