Turning 18 is a great milestone – the first steps of adulthood likely include graduating high school and heading off to college. Young adults can vote and get into casinos. They are also tasked with making responsible financial decisions and taking care of their health.
Parents sometimes forget that all parental authority ends when the child turns 18.
For some young adults, lack of parental oversight is a welcomed freedom. But, other young adults may be intimidated and uncertain about making financial and medical decisions for themselves. Children can often fall back on their parents to help them make decisions.
If your children find themselves in the second camp and want to ease into financial and health care decision-making, creating estate planning documents can be a good idea.
Typically, people think of estate planning documents for elderly people or for families with young children. While it is important for these demographics to have some planning in place, it can be equally important for young adults to have a plan in place, too.
Usually, 18-year-olds do not have significant assets, so a Will may be unnecessary (if your 18-year old has a Will, more power to him!). But, financial and health care powers of attorney are very appropriate for that age group.
With a financial power of attorney, a parent can access bank accounts, pick up and open mail, renew car tags, and pay bills (like college tuition). Financial powers of attorney can be drafted to allow parents to have access to education records and grades. Many colleges and universities are unable to share information with a student’s parent simply because the parent is footing the tuition bill.
Health care powers of attorney can allow a parent to make medical decisions for their children if the children cannot speak for themselves. Hopefully this document will never need to be used, but if the child is in a car accident or otherwise incapacitated, the health care power of attorney can allow the parents to access protected health care information and make decisions regarding treatment.
While these documents can play a vital role in any young adult’s life, they can be especially important if your child is moving away to college, the military, or other postsecondary plans. If your child may study abroad for a semester or is away from home for a period of time, access to bank accounts and health information can be crucial.
Meeting with an estate planning attorney to discuss these documents can allow a young adult to learn more about the effect of each document, as well as the variety of terms the documents can contain. Powers of attorney can be effective immediately or at a later date. They can contain broad powers relating to personal property and bank accounts or be more specific to tuition and similar items. There is no one-size-fits all, so it is important to find knowledgeable counsel to guide your young adult through this process.
If your child is headed off to college in the fall or is home on summer break, now is the time to discuss these documents with them. It’s not as fun as shopping for the dorm room or taking a summer vacation, but it is money well spent.