Estate planning isn’t just about particular documents. And your estate plan evolves during your adult life. It will ebb and flow in complexity depending on what you have, who depends on you, and your ability to care for yourself. So, let’s look at how an estate plan evolves throughout your adult life.
Does an eighteen year old need a will? Probably not. But new adults do need to estate plan. Remember, estate planning isn’t just about having a will. Estate planning is thinking through the legal issues that come up if you’re incapacitated or die.
New adults usually don’t have assets or other people they’re legally responsible for. So in those cases, we’re not so much worried about what happens if they die. Because, legally speaking, not a whole lot. There aren’t assets we’re trying to transfer to someone else or a child who needs to have someone else care for them. But, there’ll be a ton of complication if they’re incapacitated and they haven’t planned.
How so? Whether or not new adults still rely on their parents, the law doesn’t presume so. What’s the effect of that? Well, parents just can’t look at their bank account. Or write checks out of that account to pay bills. Or, perhaps more shockingly to most parents, can’t simply get medical information. That may seem like an inconvenience. It’s overwhelming if that child is facing a major medical issue and incapacitated.
So. What can you do as a parent? Well, not really a whole lot more than what you can do with your adult child. You can’t force them to do anything. But you can advise them. Talk through what would happen if they physically couldn’t address their financial responsibilities or if they couldn’t talk to a medical team treating them. Do they want you to step in at that point to help? If so, help them choose a lawyer. Heck, offer to cover the cost. But have them make the call and meet with the attorney. This is their power to give and they are the client.
What can you do as a new adult? Well. First of all, welcome to adulthood. You now have the pleasure, responsibility and pain of dealing with adult issues. Carefully evaluate who you can trust. Who can you trust with your checkbook? Who will be best able to make difficult medical decisions for you? Whose beliefs about end of life closely match your own? Talk through these issues with an attorney. Then, once you’ve signed the appropriate documents, let the people you’ve selected know and store the documents appropriately. Your attorney can help you figure out where they should go.
And parents, if you do get named, don’t abuse your power. These documents are not meant for you to supervise your adult child, but for you to help them if they can’t help themselves.