I know what you’re thinking. What does an 18 year old own that’s so valuable, it should be protected in an estate plan? Well, the answer is their life. Parents or guardians might assume they still have control over and access to their child’s school or healthcare records, but that’s not true. In California, the law recognizes 18 year olds as adults with "the legal right to privacy and to govern their own lives." Having a plan in place for your child as soon as they turn 18 is essential to ensure you can access their information and make decisions on their behalf in an emergency. A plan also guarantees that your child’s wishes are upheld if something happens to them. Although I’m not suggesting you replace that birthday or graduation gift with an estate planning worksheet, I do hope you’ll consider it as an addition.
There are four primary components that make up estate planning for young adults. The first is durable power of attorney for health care, which names parents (or whoever the child chooses) as health care agents with the power to make medical decisions for their child in the event that the child is unable to. The second is HIPAA authorization, which permits parents to access their child’s medical records and communicate with healthcare professionals and insurance companies. The third is general durable power of attorney, which allows the child to choose someone to make financial decisions on their behalf if they become unable to. Finally, the fourth component is a will, which allows the young adult to decide what will happen to their social media accounts, bank accounts, and any other assets.
If you are a parent reading this, my primary word of advice is to include your child in the planning process. It can be a difficult topic to talk about, and making sure everyone is on the same page might make the process easier. If you, the reader, are a young adult interested in starting a plan, then my suggestion is to more deeply research what all those documents and authorizations mean. Figure out who you actually want to be able to make decisions on your behalf if anything were to happen to you. You are the one who gets to decide. We’re not invincible, our lives are valuable, and our wishes about what we want to happen to us and our belongings should be respected, even if we don’t have a million dollars in assets. While we might never need a plan like this, we’ll be glad it’s there, just in case.
See you soon,