Once You Turn 18, You Need An Estate Plan

When you come of age, estate planning is probably not on your to-do list. You may think that estate planning is something that is better done later in life. However, the reality is that estate planning is needed for every stage in life. It is therefore important to start early in life to ensure that your affairs are taken care of if something goes awry (which it often does).

Incapacity planning

When you are young, you are likely in the best health that you will be for your entire life. As a result, you may feel like you will never need to worry about the possibility of being unable to make healthcare decisions. Additionally, you may think that if such an instance occurred, your parents could step in and help. However, in reality, this is not the case. Under the law, once you turn 18, you are considered to be an adult. Under HIPAA, the healthcare privacy law, your parents legally cannot access your medical records or make medical decisions for you.

If you would like your parents to have access to your records, you must sign a document called a healthcare power of attorney. This allows your parents, or another person of your choosing, to access your medical records and make medical decisions on your behalf. In addition, to this document, it is important to also have a advance healthcare directive (or living will) that informs your physician whether you would like to be resuscitated, be on life support or have other types of life-sustaining procedures in the event that you are incapacitated on unconscious.

Property distribution

At this stage in life, you may not have very much property. However, that will not always be the case. To ensure that your property is distributed according to your wishes, it is important to have a simple will in place at a minimum. A will not only will ensure that the money and property you have presently is distributed in the way you would like, but it also covers any property that you acquire later in your life.

Financial affairs

You may not believe it now, but you may not always be able to take care of your legal and financial affairs. To cover such a situation, a power of attorney is a valuable part of an estate plan. This type of document allows you to empower an agent to sign contracts and other legal documents on your behalf. You can control whether the agent has the power to do anything that can be legally done by you or has limited powers to do only specific things (e.g. sell property or make investments). The power of attorney typically goes into effect in the event that you are incapacitated.

This type of document can significantly make it easier on your loved ones should you become unable to manage your affairs. If you don’t have a power of attorney, your family members must petition the court to get a guardian appointed to manage your affairs-a lengthy and expensive process.

Consult an attorney

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. As you are beginning the adult stage of your life, it is important to be prepared for any contingencies. An experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that you have an estate plan that addresses every curveball that life may throw at you.