Young Woman Biting Her Finger Nail

With back-to-school season upon us, it’s an issue that’s timely to consider. Once your children turn 18, you are no longer entitled to see their medical records and make decisions about their medical treatment—unless they take a few basic estate-planning steps first.

When a child turns 18, the transition to adulthood seems to be just beginning. And even if the new, young adult is not quite an adult in their parent’s eyes, legally the transition is done. That being said, when should your adult children have their own estate plan?

MarketWatch recently addressed this issue in an article titled Why your kids need their own estate plan.”

Few 18-year-olds have their own investments, retirement and insurance, let alone the complication of spouse and children. For many, however, it is just a matter of time. Why, then, should an 18-year-old newly-minted adult need a plan for their estate?

Once this birthday milestone is crossed, these “children” turned “legal adults” have new legal rights and responsibilities. In fact, the basics of estate planning are as important for them as for their parents.

Consider a very common example of why young adults need a basic estate plan: healthcare. At age 17, if they have an accident, then you (their parents and legal guardians) can step in to make their medical decisions, pay their bills, and even demand grade cards from their school. At age 18, however, all of that changes.

Should your adult child be incapacitated in a serious accident, then you are no more than a perfect stranger when it comes to your “legal” ability to take care of them and their business. You have hit a legal wall of expensive red tape. Fortunately, this wall is avoidable by proper planning.

Bottom line: whether you are a newly-minted young adult, middle-aged, or elderly, proper estate planning is a matter of personal responsibility. Basic estate planning tools include a health care proxy and a financial durable power of attorney.

Reference: MarketWatch (August 6, 2013) Why your kids need their own estate plan

For more information on estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.