Every summer, newly minted high school graduates are sent out into the world to make a life for themselves. If you’re the parent of a recent grad, you’ve probably given them all sorts of insight and advice about what to expect in the years to come.
One topic you may not have broached, however, is the importance of having an estate plan. That’s understandable, especially since few young people want to think about getting severely sick, injured, and especially dying. Much less do they want to think about all of the legal and financial consequences of these things.
Still, as a parent, you must help your child understand how important it is to be prepared, especially for the times that are difficult to think about coming to pass. You should help your child step strongly into their adulthood, and encouraging them to create a few basic estate planning documents is a good way to start.
If you’re wondering for yourself what need a brand-new high school grad has for estate planning, consider what your role would be if they become severely injured in a car accident. Because your child is a legal adult, you would not have the automatic legal authority to make medical care decisions on their behalf. You also wouldn’t be able to step in and help your child manage their finances while they’re incapacitated.
These are definitely difficult matters to contemplate, but it’s crucial to do so. Addressing these legal vulnerabilities as soon as possible saves families a lot of headaches and heartache as they try to deal with unthinkable situations. Before your kids move off to college or begin the new chapter in their lives, invest time in a conversation about the following three important estate planning documents.
Medical Power of Attorney
The first estate planning document every recent grad should get is a medical power of attorney. This important document is an advance healthcare directive that will allow your child to name someone they trust (like you!) to make healthcare decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated from illness or injury.
Without this document, you will need to jump through several legal hurdles involving the courts just to gain access to your child’s medical records, let alone make medical treatment decisions for them by seeking legal guardianship over them.
This might seem crazy to you as a parent, but it’s the law – HIPAA, to be exact. Once a person turns 18 years old, they are a legal adult and no one – not even their parents – can legally obtain their medical records or make healthcare decisions without prior written permission, like that provided by a medical power of attorney.
Similar to a medical power of attorney, a living will allows your child to select someone they trust (like you) to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. More importantly, though, a living will gives your child an opportunity to make specific decisions about how they wish to be treated during such a time.
Living wills can allow your child to decide who they want to visit them, what kind of food they want to have in the hospital (to account for those with vegan, vegetarian, or other such diets), and even in some cases if the nurses should play certain music for them.
Of course, your children can also make more difficult decisions, like whether or not they want a DNR or if they want to be placed on life support. If these decisions are too difficult to make right now, though, explain to your child that they don’t have to make a decision and can leave it up to their trusted person to make those decisions for them when the time comes.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
Finally, adult children who become incapacitated may need help paying their bills and staying current on important obligations like rent, loans (especially student loans), tuition, financial aid, and government benefits.
Again, none of this is possible for parents to do without first going through expensive and time-consuming legal hurdles with the court. By far, the easiest way for parents to watch over an incapacitated adult child’s finances is for the child to name them as their durable financial power of attorney.
Help Your Child Start Adulthood Strong
By taking these basic estate planning measures, your recent high school graduate will be prepared for the unexpected for years to come. Establishing a medical power of attorney, living will, and durable financial power of attorney is just one small way your adult child will be making a big difference in how their affairs will be handled should the unthinkable come to pass.
At Aria Law PLLC, we can help families get together and do this important planning. Although your child will ultimately need to make all of the important decisions for themselves, our attorneys can help them by thoroughly explaining their options and the potential effects of their decisions.
If you’re interested in learning more about what our attorneys can do for you or your adult child, contact Aria Law PLLC online or call us at (210) 960-9996.